Thursday, July 03, 2014

Beating the odds by breathing

An important anniversary seems to have slipped right by me, and that's not entirely a bad thing. It's true that I was once obsessively aware of certain dates in 2009--the date of my surgery, the date I started chemotherapy, the date of my final treatment--but at some point cancer stopped glowering in the center of my mind and slunk off to hide in the corner of a dusty closet.

Nevertheless it's worth remembering that if you had asked me five years ago what I expected to be doing in 2014, I would have said, "I'll be happy just to be alive." Sounds morbid now, but the five-year survival rate for my diagnosis is just a bit better than 50/50, and the horrors of chemotherapy and radiation made 2014 seem like an even more unreachable goal.

And yet here I am five years later, fat and sassy and enjoying a full head of hair. It would be crass to boast about beating the odds when so many others don't--and besides, my survival was a group effort that drew on the strength and expertise of a whole host of people. But perhaps this event calls for a small celebration, which could be called a Celebration of Life if that didn't sound so much like a funeral.

How about this: join me in taking a very deep breath and letting it out slowly. Now do it again. And again. Doesn't that feel great? Still breathing! That's worth celebrating today and every day.


Contingent Cassandra said...

I like your attitude. I realize the fighting/battling/beating the disease language works as a coping mechanism for many cancer patients, and I certainly wouldn't deny them anything that does work*, but having known several people, including my mother, who ended up on the wrong end of the survival odds (even if they're good, if they're less than 100%,somebody ends up on the "didn't survive" side), I'm always a bit put off by the beating-the-disease rhetoric. One can very much want to survive, and not. And knowing that I'm not much attracted/comforted by battle/competition imagery myself, it's nice to hear a different approach now and then.

I'm glad you're still around, since I enjoy reading your blog -- both the academic parts, many of which sound all too familiar, and the rural-pleasures parts, which I enjoy vicariously, having made different choices with different tradeoffs (which I may yet reverse, if I get the chance).

*The one downside to this approach is that it can result in survivors (of the person with cancer, not the disease) who feel let down if the patient does die (and no, that wasn't my experience with my mother; she died back in the waning years of the bad old we-don't-talk-about-cancer days, which were even worse). I've been to a few funerals where the pastor had to deal with the after-effects of denial, even in the last weeks of life, on top of everything else. Once again, people get to cope in any way they choose to cope, and, having not had the experience, I'm in no position to judge, but it does appear that there can be negative consequences to the extreme version of a "positive attitude" -- refusing to even discuss the possibility of death with one's nearest and dearest.

Bardiac said...

^^What Contingent Cassandra said about your attitude. :)

I, too, am happy you're alive.

Joy to you.

radagast said...

Indeed! Glad you are here.

Anonymous said...

So grateful that you are inhaling and exhaling! Our office floor is a much better place with you around.

When I was at a recent Louisville Bats game, I sat with a stranger, an 80 yr old man who had just had open heart surgery. We were talking about a pitcher who was knocked out of the game by a bad inning. I suggested he just had "a bad day." My companion looked me straight in the eye and said in a demonstrably sincere tone, "if you're above ground, there is no such thing as a bad day." Overstated, perhaps; at the same time, there was a lot of truth there.

Anonymous said...

Hale and hearty, this is good.


Anonymous said...

Joining the celebration. Indeed, feels great! The proof is in the... breathing, according to Bev. :-)
Delia F.

Bev said...

Thanks, all! It's great to keep breathing with such a supportive crew!

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine a world without you in it! SO glad you made it past the five year mark! I love that while the dreaded C word changed you, it doesn't define you. Happy (whatever you decide to call it) Day! I think I'll make Whopie Pies in your honor! Betsy