Anniversaries are a bit overwhelming and today is whopper.
In September, John and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. For days leading up to it, I was an absolute mess. Anniversaries are a time to reflect. And when I looked back on that perfect September Saturday, I felt devastating sadness. I couldn’t let go of my anger about being robbed of the “honeymoon phase” we were promised as newlyweds. We didn’t have the luxury of chatting freely about when we would start trying for children or fantasizing about when we might finally be able to afford our dream home on the Northend. We were too busy trying to figure out how much of the life we promised each other on September 10th I would be able to be a part of.
I am lucky to have a husband who helps pull me from these dark places and realigns my focus to all the genuine blessings of our year. A time that could have easily been forever tainted by a series of “we-should-bes” slowly became a conversation of “we-still-cans”.
Still, when preparing for today, the anniversary of my first meeting with Dr. McGaughey and my first time hearing I had Stage IV cancer, I had reason to assume I would feel overwhelmed in a similar way. I had given my care team fair warning, rallied the troop from Arlington, and hunkered down for days of drowning in my own head.
But as the days drew nearer to February, I didn’t recognize the same emotions bubbling towards the surface. In fact, I didn’t recognize any emotion at all.
Soon, my worst fear, the fear I could not shake, was not that I would feel too deeply on this day. It was that I wouldn't feel at all. That I would have lost my raw nerve and feel dreadfully numb in comparison to a year ago when I was diagnosed; or six months ago when I wrote "Bonus Days"; or eight months ago when I climbed mountains; or five months ago when I sobbed in my husbands arms and mourned the life I had taken for granted.
My worst fear was I would lose sight of the fact that, as of today, I have officially outlived 50% of people who are given the same diagnosis. I never want to forget my responsibility to myself, my family and friends, and the other 50% to feel every joy, sadness, fear, anxiety and hope. I have a responsibility to live.
To combat this fear, I thought a lot about the differences between where I am now and where I was then. And truthfully, not a lot has changed. I still have Stage IV cancer. My prognosis is still poor. I still have pain and I still have the most supportive team the world has ever known.
But now, I’m much more in control. I’ve come to understand what to expect in terms of symptoms. I’ve better prepared myself for the inevitable change that is looming on the horizon. More than ever before, I feel capable of really fulfilling the responsibility I assigned myself.
Ironically, the fact that I feel more capable is the very reason I feel I have been losing my perspective and gradually drifting further from my preferred raw state. It’s incredibly easy to maintain perspective when you are standing at the edge of a cliff. When you stand three steps back, sometimes you can fool yourself into thinking the gorge isn’t so deep, after all.
Another major difference between now and then is that I’m not regularly sharing my thoughts or adventures with the world (or, more accurately, not giving my father the material to do it on my behalf).
Suddenly, I knew exactly how I would celebrate this anniversary. I needed to take some responsibility for sharing my journey. I needed to keep myself accountable and make a conscious choice to live every day.
Two Flounders was born.
I hope you will consider following along as we turn to a new page—where my father and I can keep reminding ourselves to make things with our hands, to dare to do things that scare us, to love the people around us, and to live our lives, one raw nerve moment at a time.