I opened up my calendar. With the school calendar in one hand and a pen in the other, I was setup to get all the school dates in for the year. And I got to the last week of August. The last week where one day, I have a speaking engagement. The next day, I have surgery. Surgery exactly two years from the day that I discovered a lump in my right breast.
And I paused.
Two years ago.
Yesterday started with a headache. And my throat started feeling scratchy. We were off to a concert. Bruno Mars with friends. My head pounded on the way down but I hoped it was just due to hunger. But shortly after dinner, as we stood in the concert arena, my head thumped thumped thumped. I felt light-headed. Clammy. I felt sick.
And suddenly, I felt anxious.
Shortly after diagnosis, I went with the same friend to a concert. It was after my first chemo. And after that, I got sick. Really sick. Hospital sick. And then that started a bit of a downward spiral that became known as the Wildebeest period.
And I felt anxious last night recalling that. Standing in the arena. Feeling unwell. And for one moment I thought, what if…
It doesn't happen often. The what-ifs don't creep into my mind much at all anymore. In fact, it's probably been almost a year since I really thought what if…
What if it comes back?
Because for me, I know it truly will not make any difference if I worry about it or not. If it's going to come back, it will. Just like it came the first time. I didn't get a say. But last night, I had unfamiliar anxiety. The what ifs.
The difference now though… at almost two years out… is that I get to say "go away what ifs! Get outta here! You don't get a place here!"
And I'm able to work through it all very rationally. Partially because I'm further out from it all with each day. And partially because I have an awesome counselor and an awesome friend who have laid the groundwork for tools that help me combat anxiety, should I have it. And I can say that I have less than I've had in my whole life. I can also say I still have Lexapro. But I really believe that I am just more equipped to handle the what ifs these days. After having a period of life where I had NO CONTROL outside of my own attitude, I feel more in tune with my emotions and how to manage them than ever. And I know that the more I worry, the more I worry.
So they crept in last night. And I thought I might heave. I thought I might need to leave and cry in the bathroom. I felt light-headed. I think I felt scared. We asked around for ibuprofen and a woman handed some to my friend for me and made a joke, "cramps?" Oh my gosh. I don't have cramps. I don't have cramps because I'm in menopause. I'm in menopause because I had cancer. I had cancer.
What if I'm sick and that means I'M SICK?
Then I realized what I needed to do. I needed to tell that little what if, "you don't get to have this moment." I took deep breaths. I asked myself what the worst thing is that could happen was. And how likely it was for that to happen at that moment. And asked myself why this familiar moment made me uncomfortable. And then, I heard the music in the background of my thoughts and I started dancing. And I danced and danced to the music. Not to ignore or tuck my feelings away. But to say you don't get this moment.
It wasn't that easy during treatment. It wasn't that easy when I found out I had cancer. Those were times where my anxiety was truly unmanageable. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. I felt like I was living outside myself. But now, now I'm beyond that hard part. And I can deal with it, at times I think, like a boss.
Anniversaries in illnesses and big life changes come with mega-feelings. One year out, two years out, 20 years out. As I look at the calendar and see the dates where I found my lump, had a mammogram, had a biopsy, had another biopsy, got my diagnosis… as I look at it all now that the fog has lifted, it is just weird to know that that's all a part of me. That I did that.
The calendar marks times of past events. But as I near two years out, it's so much better than it was at the one year mark. It's so much better to know where I've been and where I'm at now. It is just so much better. And even though the what ifs crept in for just a moment, the very best thing of all… is that I get to keep on dancing.