“I’ll have the wild blueberry please.”
“Your lunch looks so heavy this morning! Did you pack some for me?”
“Sam I forgot to bring your socks again, I’m sorry.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what it means. I’m scared.”
“It’s likely metastatic.”
Lines from recent conversations. Lines from different moments on different days, all of which brought me to tears.
I debated whether to say anything online. This place is usually filled with happy self-deprecation and a deep love for local food. But when you fall apart ordering a blueberry donut, it’s time to admit that life has thrown you one of its wildly unpredictable curveballs.
I called a friend to tell her the news.
“You should say something.”
Openness is both my strength and my weakness. Anyone with a pair of ears has heard about the times when I’ve burnt my food, failed a test, or had too much to drink.
I admit to my faults, and there are many. But I don’t like to tell stories that aren’t remotely funny. They stay deep, dark and buried until the skies are once again clear. When I can talk about them in the past tense. Make light of the situation.
“Remember the time when I walked to the hospital with a cockroach in my shoe? That was funny.”
Health issues – present tense – are never funny.
Cancer isn’t funny.
Particularly when it shows up 14 years after it went into remission.
Too much has happened since then. A husband. An apartment. A dog. Three beautiful kids. A lake house.
It seems unfair. But what is unfair?
Is it fair when another person gets sick? Your co-worker’s child? Your friend’s mother? Your brother? Your sister?
Cancer is a numbers game. There are things that you can do to better or worsen your odds, but in the end, it strikes randomly, and has nothing to do with fairness. It has everything to do with bad luck.
So you try to be upbeat.
You distract yourself. You work. You take the kids to school and drop them off at tennis.
You listen to the conversations happening around you. “Sophie isn’t being challenged. You’d think that after all of these lessons she’d know how to hold a racquet.”
You try hard to forget the news that you were delivered. That more likely than not, you have stage IV melanoma.
I’ve been writing for two years about what life is like on the other side of cancer. It’s full of healthy food, birthday cakes, love, frustration and joy.
It would be inauthentic for me to disappear into thin air, or to provide vague information. “Checking out with some health issues guys, see you in a few weeks.”
I wanted to finish telling the story about that incredible trip through New Mexico with my Mum.
And now I’m giving myself permission to rest. To focus on my health and spend quality time with my family.
Tomorrow I’m going to the hospital for surgery and I look forward to hearing these words when I wake up: “We removed it, follow-up treatment is…, your prognosis is good.”
There’s no reason to believe that I’ll hear otherwise. My doctors have told me that I’m going to be OK. I believe that I’m going to be OK. After a week that involved tearful phone calls, depression and isolation, a strange thing happened. I started to take pleasure in old routines – making myself a nice meal, taking the kids to the museum, reading a book at night. I wish that I could say that I willed myself to this place, but it happened organically. And although I’m anticipating bumps in the road ahead, I know that I have the mental strength to get myself through this challenge.
I promise to update this page as soon as I have my energy back. And I look forward to returning with great news. There is so much good coming our way – another summer at the lake, boxes of CSA vegetables from the Hudson Valley, a recently-planted herb garden that’s already in full bloom. Summer camp for the kids, swim team, trips to the neighboring blueberry farm.
Life is happening around every corner.
Whatever is thrown my way, I’m ready for it.
It’s been a week since my surgery and recovery, although slow, is going well. As much as we’d hoped that it wasn’t cancer, here we are, stage IV melanoma. Treatment is still undecided, but we’ll learn more in the coming weeks.
I’m in good spirits though. Food has once again become my beacon. It’s my comfort blanket, my shield. There’s “healthy eating”, the kind of eating that I’ve embraced for the past 14 years: joyful eating, everything from scratch, wholesome ingredients, mountains of vegetables, nothing processed.
And then we have its reclusive, tough, and oh-so empowering cousin: “HEALTHY EATING” – no white flour, no sugar, no red meat, no dairy, no regrets.
I don’t look at my list of antiangiogenic foods and think about restrictions. I look at this list and see 150+ ways to beat cancer.
Hippocrates once said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
So I’m gearing up for battle; building my arsenal with weapons such as blackberries, ginger, whole grains and leafy greens.
If you’d like to see the TED talk that inspired this dietary shift, you can find the link here.
For now, you can picture me exactly where I am most days: on the couch, Lauren’s “High School Musical” blanket keeping me warm; Jackson on his back by my side, paws in the air; bowl of kale salad in my lap; ginger tea at arm’s length; kids in costume, making a mess, performing a show…surrounding myself with every inspirational anti-cancer book written since the beginning of time.
There are worse places to be in life.
See you guys back here soon.