Apr 1, 2012

Balancing an after life

 It’s snowing in Umeå today. April’s fool, it feels like. A tight, wet, sharp snow cutting into my face on my morning Nordic Walking-walk. The weather is appropriate for my assignment today though.

Three years ago at this time I was in the middle of chemotherapy. Pretty much exactly two years ago I was cleared from a terrifying scare; no, the dark spot that covered my right hip ball wasn’t a malignant metastases after all, only some degeneration. March 30 2010 my after life started, I got my self one more birthday and a second chance to live.

Tomorrow is my yearly check up. A full day of x-ray hopping fun at the University hospital. I feel like preparing for a long-trip divided into all these stops on a tight schedule. Yeah, the take off is even an early morning one, those I really do hate.

Three years ago. I’m reading my journal 4/1/09: “On the 7th day from my 2nd chemo treatment. Feeling sick. A soar throat and mouth, nausea, pain in my chest and body. Constipated. All I want to eat is salt.” A couple of days earlier I had received an email from my friend Elizabeth in Seattle: “Trouble 2 is sent from heaven. He took care of house, dog and daughter while we were in the hospital”.

The situation was bizarre. I was fighting the aftermaths of a tumor in my breast and hers was on a tonsil. I was three months in to my cancer journey when Elizabeth’s was discovered. My youngest son, Trouble 2 and his girlfriend, was only two weeks from leaving Umeå to spend spring in Seattle, staying with Elizabeth and her family. And so he did. With three months experience from a cancer sick mother, he moved in with another one for three months, this time one of his Seattle moms.

Elizabeth and I first met summer -95 when my family rented a house across the street from her family in Madrona. I had two young sons, she two young daughters. We became close friends and our lives have since then been interlaced. We have been dressed up in Las Vegas and dressed down in a cabin on the Olympic Peninsula. Her family has spent Midsummer in my little Swedish village, and we became ferry commuters when they lived over at Bainbridge Island. Our children went to school together, and all four of them are now in the start of creating their grown up lives. Over the years we have shared happiness and fear, hope and powerlessness, tears and laughter. And then cancer.

Today we share the experience of being survivors. Last September when I was flat down with my back out in Seattle, I woke up one morning with a bruise on my hand. Realizing that it was the second time in just a couple of weeks I got really scared. There is no fear like the cancer fear. There is nothing like it. Cancer is not negotiable. And if your old cancer shows up again, it will kill you. It’s as simple as that.

Well, that evening Elizabeth came over to my place. She sat on my bed and I showed her my bruise and she said: “You know, I get bruised so much easier than I used to.” And we talked about our poor scarred bodies and ate the comforting Swimming Rama she brought, knowing that what we share is something very special, and no one outside can never ever understand what it is like. Being a survivor. Been given a second chance, although always dreading that next check up. Balancing life and death.

It keeps snowing. Half a foot now.

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