To get what happened today, you have to get where I'm coming from.
I was 45 years old. I had two children. I had breast cancer. My prognosis was terrible. I couldn't think of anything else. 24/7 doesn't even describe it. I was obsessed. Possessed. Cancer invaded my brain just like it invaded my body.
Only worse. At least parts of my body didn't have it. My entire brain was affected---every cell, every thought --I had a one-track mind.
I tried eveything to escape--yoga, meditation, guided imagery, music, nature walks. Nothing worked. When I discovered art a year after my diagnosis, I finally found some relief.
Painting for 5 minutes without thinking about cancer was a first step.
Eating a meal without chewing on cancer was a milestone.
Seeing a movie without cancer as the sub-plot was a breakthrough.
I never thought I'd get through a whole day without thinking about it. But as the years went by, I discovered even that was possible.
Cut to the gynecologist today. (I've lost so many body parts you'd think I wouldn't even have to go anymore.)
This isn't the gynecologist who delivered my children, or saw me through cancer. I've been seeing this doctor for maybe 5 years. Today I'm in the stirrups waiting for my exam while she's flipping through my chart. And she says, "So what was the year of your diagnosis?"
I pause. "I can't remember if it was '94 or '95," I say.
I CAN'T REMEMBER. I have to think before I answer for sure: "'It was '95."
The doctor is as dumbfounded as I am. The date of diagnosis is indelibly imprinted in the brain of a cancer patient. "How great that is," she smiles. "To think that you could forget."
I smile, too. It's quite a moment.
I float out of the gynecologist's office, basking in my resilience, and my ability to let go of cancer. When suddenly I have a thought.
What if this is not a milestone in my cancer journey after all? Maybe this is a different kind of milestone: the onset of Alzheimer's.