Monday, January 12, 2009
T-minus one day to chemo treatment #2.
Ted and I just came back from the funeral. What a long drive back--a winter storm came through and we drove through some blowing snow and once we were back in Minnesota, the roads were crappy! Wisconsin has the right idea by pre-emptively salting the roads and sending plows out while it's coming down. We didn't see a single plow on I-94 after we crossed back into Minnesota. It's no wonder there are so many accidents every time it snows here.
I'm not sure what I was expecting today. I didn't know Jason personally--in fact, I have only met him once, at Ted's sister's wedding last year, and I feel bad that I don't remember--but today sort of made me start thinking about stuff I probably have no business thinking about. Since being faced with my own mortality, I've had this disordered sense of what's important. I used to think I knew what was important in my life--school, family, making a name for myself in this world. I put a lot of my time in to acheiving high marks in school and pleasing my bosses. I wanted to be better than everyone at everything I attempted, and if I wasn't the best at it then I was a failure and I made myself miserable worrying about that failure. I went in for that biopsy thinking I would be in and out, hurryhurryhurry and get to the parents' house for Thanksgiving because that's the only time I ever take to go see them. Instead, I awoke several hours later with a plastic tube shoved down my throat and a machine breathing for me. The first person I saw was Ted, and he had a look on his face I had never seen before: on his face read the fear that I was feeling. He may not ever admit that and I don't care, but it was there. I knew right then, without a doubt, that I loved that man and he loved me back. Once it was explained to me where I was and why (and with the help of those wonderful feelgood drugs they give you) I calmed down enough to piece together what had happened. My mom showed up some time later--the drug haze does not allow for me to place that time nor the look on her face. Some time between all of this, everything I had been worrying about a mere 24 hours ago seemed ridiculously insignificant to the point of being absurd. Who cares about losing a few points on a homework assignment? Who really cares about the difference between an A and and A minus? What is it that I am so afraid of that makes me not want to admit that I am in love with someone? As I reorganized my priorities (get this tube out of my throat, beg a nurse to let me drink some water, walk on my own, etc.), I began to realize that I had a VERY skewed sense of what is really important in life.
Today has most certainly solidified that realization. Jason leaves behind a wife and two children, parents and siblings and extended family that will miss him very much. He made a huge impact on his community, and that is how his memory will live on. You know what's important? Telling the people you love that you do. Enjoying the moments in your life, no matter how insignificant. We are fragile, and our lives can sometimes be too short to waste them worrying about things that, in all honesty, just aren't that damn important.
Many of you know this already, but I am not a religious person. I have my reasons, none of them hateful or spiteful. I don't look down upon people who are religious or spiritual. In fact, I completely respect their faith. It takes a lot of moxie to say 'I believe this, because I have faith in this, and my faith is important to me, period.' I will never in a million years think any less of anyone because they have faith in something that I do not. I don't mean to offend anyone by writing this, but it is a personal choice of mine. And no, I don't need to 'find religion' or 'be saved' or anything. I'm perfectly happy the way I am; I don't feel as though I am missing out on anything. I do, however, believe in patience and forgiveness, something of which I am guilty of not having much of. I'm working on that--I have realized that there are things that are just not worth getting upset about, and there are people I need to forgive, including myself.
I found myself thinking of Priscilla today. For those of you who don't know her, she was my best friend when we were kids. She and her family moved to Washington when we were in the sixth grade--she had a type of bone cancer called osteogenic sarcoma, and the only doctor who would do a life-saving surgery for her was there. She was a very sick little girl at the time, already having gone through chemo treatments and preparing for a major and somewhat experimental surgery. She was incredibly brave, and came through the experience like a champ. Shortly afterwards, she and I became fast friends. She and her family moved to the east coast when we were in the eighth grade. She was at her five-year mark being cancer free when she developed cancer again, this time in her lungs. That was as the end of March, 1997. It spread so quickly that she succumbed to it on April 7, 1997. She was sixteen years old. I was devastated--I had lost my best friend. I learned something from that, though. I learned that life is short and not worth wasting. I also learned from Priscilla the depths of the human soul. She never complained about her situation. She always had a smile on her face. She looked forward, not behind--she wasn't headed that way. The last time I talked to her, when she was in the hospital before she passed away, she was receiving a blood transfusion and I began to panic at the seriousness of her condition. She said, 'Don't worry, Nicole, I'm fine! It's no big deal!' I hope that I have half the courage through this that she had. She is my hero.
The pastor at the service today spoke of life as a gift. We are gifted with the relationships around us, and all too often we take those gifts for granted. We need to take the time to appreciate the gift for exactly what it is: a gift. We are not entitled to friendships, we are not entitled to love, we are not entitled to the relationships of family. They are all gifts, and they should be treated as such. We are here for such a fleeting moment in the grand scheme of things that it is ridiculous, almost obscene, to hold grudges against each other, to not take the time to continue relationships because of stupid things such as distance or time, to hang on to something just because you are afraid to let go, or to not tell someone that you love them simply because you are afraid of what those words may actually mean.
Because of the quick actions of the medical team at the hospital, I was able to avert disaster. What happened was a true medical emergency--one that I could have died from. I have been given a second chance, and I do NOT intend to squander it. And when I beat cancer, I don't intend to squander THAT second chance, either. My fears about life are beginning to disappear. Life is entirely too short to spend it afraid of what tomorrow will bring. For lack of a better phrase, cancer can SUCK MY ASS. Bring on tomorrow. I'm ready, and I'm not afraid anymore.