I am not sure if anyone has noticed, but a few weeks ago I added an "Upcoming Races" section to this blog so I can publically announce my running "life" and this will keep me from getting too chicken to back down on any of these goals (you all will make sure I keep to these running and triathlon plans, right?!). Well, I just moved the tab to the above section to make it more noticeable! Not only do I post the upcoming races, but I am going to use this page to keep a tally of my times and general comments about each race.
And as an extra bonus today, I have a quick book review of Gail Konop Baker's Cancer is a Bitch: Or, I'd Rather Be Having a Midlife Crisis. I picked this book up over the weekend when I was at the SIU bookstore and I connected with Baker's comments right away. She has an amazing sense of voice that I could absolutely identify with (and I love her kick ass title!) Baker was diagnosed with the same thing I had -- DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). Mine had invasive elements, though, so my treatment included surgery, radiation and chemotherapy while Baker's was just the surgeries. But it is still *cancer* and it's that word that still scares the crap out of anyone who hears it. As Baker laments, "How had I not appreciated my health all those years I didn't have a diagnosis following me everywhere like an annoying sibling, mimicking my every move, mirroring the parts of me that make me feel awkward, ashamed? My diagnosis, a brat, demanding center stage, forcing me to fill my calendar with appointments where I'm weighed and blood pressured and poked and probed, felt up and down and warned about risk" (15). Exactly.
At one point, after a couple of lumpectomies, Baker notes: "I glance down and see where the virgin skin deadens into the wound. I wish it wasn't like that, wish I could undo the damage, but I can't. Can't change it, can't change what is, what happened. This is my body. The scar is me and I am the scar. And it's a symbol of what I've been through, a reminder that I've survived, and it makes me exactly who I am now" (198). I love what she is saying (tons of self confidence) but, quite honestly, I am not sure who I am now. I want to say everything is back to normal -- or at least that I can get back there. But reminders of what happened jump out at me every time I take my clothes off or bump into somebody who wants to talk about what transpired the last few months. Cancer is always there even if I don't want it to be.
Later in the book, Baker talks to friend who has also been diagnosed with cancer, and they argue that a diagnosis makes life "a little clearer and sharper, more intense" (167). I get that. I don't want this to come off as a cliche, but I know that I am teaching differently right now. I think I am more conscious of what I am doing. Connections with people are even different -- I feel almost desperate to be more socially responsible and aware of other peoples' pain and struggles.
But it is her comments on her marriage that get to me the most. Baker mentions "the oversized beat-up duffel bag" she has "dragged into the marriage" (231) and I know exactly what she is talking about. I know coming into my marriage as an "older bride" (I was 36), I didn't get married because I *had* to or I felt obligated to start this next chapter (so it goes) -- I got married because I love Jim more than any other man I have ever met. He loves me and I can feel that everyday in every word he says or action he takes. But, like pretty much anyone else, I didn't come into this marriage "innocent" or without "a past." I had an "oversized beat-up duffel bag" of crap -- body issues, fluctuating levels of low self-esteem, etc. And the one thing cancer does -- from my experience -- is highlight that baggage. Instead of the duffel bag always being there under the bed (present but not always acknowledged), it feels like that duffel bag is out in the open -- it's in the openness of the room and we keep tripping over it.
The book did make me more aware of the biggest fear lurking in my mind recently -- though I never thought about recurrence while going through treatment, I think a lot more about the possibility of getting cancer again. My next mammogram is in August -- and it terrifies me. What happens if they put me in the "special" waiting room again? (last time I was in the dark about why I was placed in a different room). But ... all I can do is wait.