Here I am – flying off to a tropical island with a mimosa beside my laptop eager to embark on another family adventure. (One of the perks of jays frequent travel is the bump to first class and his generosity to give the seat to me!). As with all our travel, there isn’t room for cancer in my carry on. Cancer is left at home. On vacation, I am just me. We are just we – a happy family on vacation!
But, last night as I was whipping off a couple quick emails before I unplugged for vacation. I received an email from the mom of a scarf recipient. I had sent Jessica a follow up email about our hospital program introducing our new Partnership Coordinator and inquiring if she was still trying to get a program started in her home town. Her mom informed me Jessica died.
That morning I had rolled up a banner we use for events with bright hopeful faces of scarf recipients. Jessica’s beaming smile at the center of the banner reminded me to drop her a quick email. I had no idea she had become so sick. I didn’t know. She died.
Tears streamed down my face as I jammed snorkels, sunscreen and a deflated soccer ball into a bag – writing myself a note not to forget the pump to blow it back up when we landed in the islands. How can life be so unfair? Why is it that we can’t stop this awful disease from robbing families of loved ones? How precious and fragile and fleeting is this life? Damn it cancer. Damn you! Jessica was a dancer.
Teetering between health and sickness. I had treatment yesterday… as I waited for my lab results for my xgeva injections the nurses and I talked about spring break. I quickly changed the subject from my tropical adventure, as I looked around the lab at the tired, sick,worried patients surrounding me. Clearly not going on vacation the next day. It’s like an entirely separate existence – cancerland. Where people live treatment to treatment. Where the side effects and fears dwarf any normal worry like a broken iPhone or flat tire. Wobbling between these two worlds is bizarre. I left the cancer center to rush to lunch with friends where the conversation happily swirled from vacations to summer plans and our silly children. Such simple, happy topics easily taken for granted unless you balance them in comparison to the conversations of minutes before about blood counts, calcium levels and tumor markers….
I’m grateful beyond words for this time of health. Yet, even though cancer doesn’t fit in my carry on, it clings to me. The nagging fear of when it will return threatens my hope. I run from it through travel. I know. I feel so alive when doing new things and unplugging from reality. To just be with our family- making memories I hope beyond hope our kids remember. But, Jessica, and so many others we’ve lost to cancer, aren’t far from my heart. Her pain is my pain. Her hope, my hope. Anyone who has faces cancer knows this feeling.
Yet, we carry on. We stumble, get back up and stumble again. And with any luck we dance.