Four years ago this spring Dan and I, with my sister and her husband, went on a backcountry backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon. We each carried about thirty pounds on our backs, hiking from the South Rim into the canyon for a few nights of camping, and hiking back up with slightly lighter packs. Also four years ago this spring, our granddaughter graduated from high school, ready for college and to become the nurse she’d always wanted to be.
And then(after the distraction of a house fire) came… “Oh shoot. Metastatic lung cancer? Well this is not good. But I have things I need to be here for. What’s the plan to keep me here?” This was my thinking, pretty much, upon hearing my diagnosis. Even though I knew things looked grim, I needed to focus on life.
And I’ve been lucky. Lucky to have expert care. Lucky to have a cell fusion ROS1 that researchers have developed targeted therapies to keep “contained” (my term). Lucky that another drug was available when the cancer found my brain.
But my being here, living, is so much more than just luck. My outlook on life, my self care, self advocacy, the strength I draw from the love of others, believing in something bigger than myself, the joy I feel in experiencing every small part of each day, all keep me here too. And goals – things I need to do. Important things I so want to be here for. Today I reached one of those goals. In fact, it is the only tangible, stated goal in those first months with a date that I hoped to be here for. A date that seemed so far into the future for someone with a terminal illness. Today that granddaughter who so wanted to be a nurse graduated and I was there. Fancy that. I was there. Wearing a bracelet that my dad gave to my mom – I try to wear it to important family events.
And now? Well, of course I’ve so many reasons I need to live. I’ve even got a few mountains I want to climb. I understand a lot more about this cancer journey I’m on than I did so long ago. And I know I’ve more to learn. I don’t, though, feel a need to set a new goal with a date that I must reach. If I can live well surrounded by love for however long I’m here, I’m quite satisfied. I will live and play and love with those who love me, finding joy in everyday things every day. And when I turn 99 I shall dye my hair purple. (If I have hair.)