Yesterday I took a nasty spill on the driveway. I don’t even know what I tripped on, but I went down hard. My knee and my hand are still seeping (the downside of taking a baby aspirin a day), and my whole body is sore. I feel like my arms were wrenched from their sockets and then shoved back in. I can’t raise my arms over my head, everything is out of whack. I told a friend that it felt like I may have dislodged a breast. “Can’t be,” she said. “Those things have got to be built to last.” She’s right, of course. But this is what you think of when you fall down hard on your newly reconstructed boobs.
It’s an adventure, that’s for sure.
I just finished reading Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto. If you don’t know who he is, google him. He’s a doctor, author, and frequent contributor to The New Yorker magazine. I love his writing, and I loved this book, but it made me realize how incredibly lucky I am to have come out of my surgeries in one piece. Because, while doctors and nurses are exceptionally well-trained, things can go very wrong very quickly. Sometimes the only thing standing between you and death is the troubleshooting skills of your medical team. And for that, you better hope they have a checklist. A cognitive safety net. Because, like it or not, we’re only human. Memory and judgment are fallible.
I read Gawande’s book for a story I’m working on. I’ve been working almost nonstop since September, and it’s both a relief and a blessing. I love the things I’m writing about. The topics are never boring, and while it’s time consuming and research intensive, I love what I’m doing right now. I also adore my editor, she’s a writer’s dream. I know it won’t last. These things never do. It’s the nature of the freelance beast. But for now, it’s exactly what I need and what I want.
Which brings me to my final thought: This post-cancer life is such a strange balancing act. There are days when I feel almost normal, almost whole. And there are days when I can’t even look in the mirror, when the thought of seeing my physical scars, overwhelms me. There are days when I feel strong enough emotionally to tackle the on-going insurance and financial fallout, and days when all I can do is crawl back under the covers and sleep until my son gets home from school. Sometimes I can’t stop thinking about the possibility of rogue cancer cells multiplying and re-staking their claim inside my body, and sometimes I think I will most likely live forever.
But the truth is, it’s not that much different for any of us. Cancer or no cancer. Life is hard, sometimes harder than we can even imagine. The good, the bad, the scary. It’s all tangled up, isn’t it? And there’s nothing for us to do but keep moving — and hope we don’t break anything when we fall.