When he came down for breakfast yesterday, my son wrapped his arms around me and said, “I can’t believe it’s been a year.” It floated in and out of my consciousness all day, this anniversary, this date that will always be a little bit of a mystery to me. I don’t remember anything beyond the pre-op prep. The surgeons writing on me with markers, the anesthesiologist smiling down at me as I was wheeled into the operating room. It all seems like a long, long time ago. Not a year. Definitely not just a year.
I have been sitting this week with a lull in my workload, it feels indulgent after so many days of endless deadlines. I have been tempted to reach out to my editors, to seek more assignments, but I’ve been happy too, to have the time and the space to reflect, to plan, to think about some short-term goals.
I taught myself to knit by watching instructional videos online. I’m still not quite fluent in the purl stitch, but I’m getting close. One of James’s cousins offered to give me all her knitting supplies, she boxed them up when arthritis forced her to stop. When I knit, my hands go numb, I lose the feeling in my fingers, but sometimes I can stretch and move in a different way and it comes back. This seems like a small thing to carry, in light of how big, how invasive my surgery was. I am still surprised by how far I’ve come in a year, but also by how many things linger. When I sneeze, I have to hold my chest. If I don’t, the movement feels as though I’m being pulled apart from the inside. At the gym yesterday, I held a modified plank for 30 seconds, and then I did it a second time — this is something I was sure I would never be able to do again.
There were things my PT told me, cautionary tales, as she worked through the list of exercises I should avoid. But I’ve been thinking, why put limits on it? Why should I accept that I’ll never do push ups, never bear weight on my upper body, never have full range of movement in my arms? I think I might get there. I’m not there yet, but why not believe it’s possible, rather than accept that it’s not?
I don’t know what my life looks like going forward, I don’t know how to get to the place where I want to be. My focus has shifted. I live with the flickering flame of fear. Sometimes, even, I can see the cancer coming back; I’m not sure that doubt will ever be erased. But today I am one year and one day beyond a double mastectomy and reconstruction. One year and one day post a 12-hour surgery. One year and one day into a fresh start.
This morning when my son came down to breakfast, it was just another day. No hugs. No reminders. But deep inside my heart there is more. Always more. Every day is a chance to start again, to log the minutes and the hours, to try harder, dream bigger and live better. I am a walking cliche.
Because today is the first day of the rest of my life.