I sit here on the sofa, wide-awake at 2:33 a.m., warm cup of tea in hand, on the early morning of my 47th (gulp!) birthday. I reflect on the fact that I am 47. That sounds dangerously close to 50…how can that be? It feels like five or six years ago I was sitting in Benjamin’s (‘been-HA-mean!’) Spanish class at UT wondering how I got stuck with such a lousy professor.
But here I am, 47, and happy to be alive, celebrating another birthday.
A disclaimer: I am not usually up at this hour; my days of last-call at the bar ended years ago. If I go on and on with non-sequiturs, I’ll blame it on the hour and my beverage choice of chamomile vs. cappuccino.
This morning I woke up at 1:00 after a terrible dream about a tsunami flooding our four-story beach condo, being whisked away in a helicopter with my family, and other awful things. So I lay awake in bed for an hour, thinking to myself…”what was that all about? We’re 120 feet above the beach, and I don’t think the waves would make it that high, and duh, we don’t have a four story condo.” This dream was not about me. But like any bad dream, you either go right back to sleep or you dwell on it until it makes you crazy. And I haven’t had a nightmare in a long time, so it kind of rattled me.
I started thinking about other positive things, to shift my mind to a happy place. Which then led my brain to some typical, incessant planning. For those of you who know me well, I’m a planner. A flexible and often spontaneous planner, but a planner, nevertheless.
I then started to wonder…is this why I’m still here? I was given this diagnosis eight years ago and according to the statistics I should be in an urn in our living room. But I’m not. Is it because I can’t seem to let go of the future?
I know a lot of people dwell on their cancer. It’s an easy thing to do, especially when you’re dealing with recurrences and symptom management, year after year. And don’t get me wrong. My days are not perfect. The headaches and the pain can take me down for days at a time. And I have an open wound from my November surgery that has been bleeding for seven months now. I just tell myself that those uninvited, mutated cells (the cancer) are on a superhighway out of my body, and it’s causing a little bleeding from the traffic jam.
But back to my planning. I think it must be what keeps me alive. This week we met with a contractor to talk about some little renovations for our house this summer. I still forward my partners emails from brokers about future spa locations. I made travel plans to Europe for the first week following the end of my weekly labs while on trial.
Last night at an Easter egg decorating party in the park, I ran into a new friend of mine who has also had some health ‘issues’. We spoke about how important it is to re-frame the illness and envision your life, as you want. It is a proven; if you let your mind consume you with thoughts about the dreadful illness, it can take over your body and grow.
And, you may be thinking— now that my cancer is stage 4, and had been hovering at stage 3 for seven years— that perhaps I’m not doing a good enough job of envisioning my perfect health! I do have to remind myself that this is an aggressive cancer. And there is still time. I’ve said to many friends that there hasn’t been a better time to have cancer, ever. The advancements they are making right now are crazy exciting. And I have also been blessed with the very best doctors.
So admittedly, I try to take it easy on myself that the disease has progressed. No one has ever enjoyed hearing the words “stage 4”. But I rarely –if ever— truly consider that I might die soon, although I have been known to make some bad jokes about it. : ) And I am comforted by the fact that my days consist of meditation, yoga, and unintentional, vivid planning.
To let you peek into this crazy little brain of mine, a typical hour might consist of:
“I am cured — I’m so healthy it’s embarrassing! – I’m at Pearl opening our super beautiful spa in three weeks! – I’m skiing in Aspen next spring— I’m helping my friend open her yoga studio in Laguna (please!) – I’m writing up ideas for dem.it.forward, a fun concept to save us from the apocalypse – etc.) And then back to work, writing copy for a marketing piece.
As I really need to get some sleep, I will wrap up this rambling.
Before I go, I want to share that I had a will drawn up early last year, like any responsible adult with children and a business (oh, and cancer) should do. It has been sitting in a safe place for months. It has a line for my signature and two witnesses. I signed it. I had a friend sign as a witness. But that third line remains blank and isn’t valid without it. I recently determined it’s because I’m not ready to go anywhere yet. Hopefully someone will remind me if it gets to that point, but I can’t believe it’s going to happen in this decade or even the next. I have so many more things to do in this life.
Finally, it’s tradition on my birthday now, after meeting the wonderful Wyatt and adopting many of his traditions, to thank my parents on my birthday. It was at 4:59 a.m, about an hour ago on this day, 47 years ago in Alexandria, Louisiana, that my mom finally got to hold her daughter, who came out after a 24-hour labor, breach, doing the splits. Thank you. You’re awesome too, Dad, but Mom, you really deserve the credit after that labor.
So, happy birthday to me….and many more.
p.s. this box came from Allison yesterday. The most amazing, talented, wonderful sister. Can’t wait to open it today!