I've been called to bed by the snoozing husband, but I can sleep in tomorrow, and I need to log these thoughts in for posterity.
Another year is upon me, and for the past few days I've been sort of pushed to reflect on the time between the last birthday and this one, by one incident or another. Last year at this time, the cancer started to progress, and I wasn't feeling too well. I went to So. Cal. and went on an outlet shopping binge with Julie (which I wouldn't mind doing again, since I don't shop for anything but groceries or other people's things anymore), then brought my brother up for a visit. We saw The Shins—the first concert we attended together in ages. We used to enjoy that quite a bit, and some of my best New Wave memories are shared with him and his wacky comedic antics.
Shortly after that, I felt super crappy and it finally showed on the CT scan. My oncologist and I had a bit of a power struggle, but in the end, we both got our way. I got the oral drug Tarceva (my choice, study drug that I actually got the placebo of while on the clinical trial) in combination with IV infusions of Alimta (his choice, the mesothelioma therapy). After a horrible patch of about 6 weeks during which I had to accept never having beautiful skin ever again, I felt much improved and able to breathe like a normal person. It was summer, my oncologist was on his honeymoon in Italy, and his sub said I could fly long distance. Tara and Vidal came up and we went to London. Mike changed jobs and began his current state of globetrotting. We went to the Spam museum and the Jeep found its new home with the Schroeders in Albert Lea, MN. We moved from Alameda to San Leandro (the main regret of this past year, with the silver lining being that it brought my sister and I together). Mike took Brian crabbing out to the Pacific. My mom became ill. We got her the first dryer she's ever owned since coming to the U.S. (don't ask). Bruno died (still not over him). I received a locket from Tiffany so I could keep a picture of him (Bruno) near/in my heart. Mike and I went to Houston on Christmas Day and trekked across the south. We saw cousin Carol for the first time since 1995 (Mike had never met her and I'd never met my cousin-in-law Mike) at her home in Florida. Went to Disney World, Kennedy Space Center, then on a cruise to the Bahamas. We rode Segways. I came home (Mike stayed in Florida), started ceramics class, had my health insurance axed by the Court, came down with shingles. My mom recovered, my father finished his book, my brother has 9 cats, we have 2 new Siamese, and my neighbor Melissa and I walked 4 miles at Lake Chabot and I was neither tired nor sore. Mike was given a Nissan Titan (the better to pull the boat with) for a work truck. I've finally come to terms with the fact that I really need to apply for the benefits I worked so hard to earn. I'd been in denial the past year, truly hoping to return to work…The oncologist always gives me this incredulous look when I talk about it. He does, however, urge me to buy a house. Does this mean I'll live long enough to get in it and enjoy it for a second?
I'm sure I missed a bunch of things. I wanted to do more, but I guess I gave this year—the "extra" year—a run for the money. I'm nervous. I don't know if I'll get another year. June 15 is the two-year anniversary of my diagnosis. Memorial Day marks 10 years together for Mike and I. The chronological years don't matter anymore, it's all about the time that's left and how I spend it. That all depends on my condition. Mike thinks I'm going to beat this, and some days I truly feel that way too. Some days I feel really good, pretty close to normal, except that my hair is hideous, my face is puffy, I feel self-conscious about wearing short dresses, I have no desire to wear any of the fabulous shoes collecting dust in the closet, and going rock climbing is a fantasy. I do feel like I'm running out of time, and I have to take big trips in the coming months or be cursed. Maybe New Mexico when school gets out.
Any illness can strip away the layers of things that add to the complexity of life. I've always viewed possessions as creating undue stress and responsibility. Owning big ticket material things (that aren't dictated by necessity) by definition creates debt (unless, of course, you paid cash for all of it, then I wanna party with you!), which sets up responsibility over time, which assumes time will continue to exist, as well as one's ability to use that time to work and pay the debt off, etc. It's based on assumptions that are taken for granted. I've walked the line for years, mostly living day to day, saving money for things I wanted/needed and paying for them outright. Occasionally I'd take on short-term debt (I broke down and bought a new car, for example), but that was pretty rare. I love fashion and nice things and nice meals as much as anyone, but rarely cave in to impulse shopping. I don't tend to bite off more than I can chew. We all love to have the best thing, but sometimes, the best thing is one that serves the purpose well and economically. One would think that having cancer would propel me to run out and buy that $1500 Valentino handbag or a cool sportscar, but I'd rather buy a plane ticket or a Segway, were I to spend on something "unnecessary". At this point, I'd be willing to buy a house because it's a good time, and I'm no longer willing to tolerate idiotic landlords. That action would compromise traveling options, but those options might cease to exist anyway. Best to have your own piece of land for meditative pools and zen rock gardens. I'd rather have a fabulous garden than a bitchin' car…you get the idea. Maybe in the end, I'd wind up giving money to charity to take care of all those starving kids, etc.
Because I've had a pretty long, decent run, I fear the time I'll no longer be able, much less have the will, to do normal things. These thoughts are full of darkness and sadness, and I wonder if I'll be able to accept that time peacefully, with grace, acknowledging the good times for what they were. I still haven't written a will…
Anyway, I thank god and feel tremendously fortunate to be here writing this, 4 minutes before my birthday. On this day I thank all of you for keeping me company on this journey, for giving me love and strength, hope, faith, courage, compassion, and friendship. The best birthday gift in the world is the dream of time well-spent, forging unforgettable moments. Thank you for last year, I hope we can do it again for a little bit longer.
"I'd rather travel around the world for a year than own a house" and "Given a choice, I'd take time over money any day." (Siddhartha: "I can think, I can wait, and I can fast.")