Eight years ago today I had surgery for cancer, and Halloween was the day I came home from the hospital. Today no patient is kept in the hospital for very long, even after cancer surgery. I remember being tucked up all cozy on the living room sofa while my two grown-up daughters and my husband handed out treats to the neighborhood children.
There was something very comforting about the normalcy of life after a cancer diagnosis. It’s almost impossible to imagine that life moves along from day to day as if nothing major happened. I think that enables one to mentally handle the shock of illness. After all, we are meant to be healthy and happy, aren’t we? So we need to be able to move beyond the bad things and focus on the good, like little ones dressed up as princesses and pirates holding out their paper bags for treats on a cold October night.
The truth is after a cancer diagnosis, nothing ever seems normal. Complacency is gone. Maybe that is not really such a bad thing. We need to be prepared for anything life throws our way. We just need to leave behind us a footprint that says, “Yes, I was here, and I hope that my presence here on earth has made a difference to at least one other person.” Then we can move on to wherever we go next and know that we have in some way made the world a better place.
Sometimes I am able to forget I had breast cancer. It often still seems a little surreal. But then I look at the photo of my sister who lost her life to breast cancer, or I sit at the table making greeting cards for breast cancer patients, or I read obituaries of women who died from breast cancer, and I have to push aside my own experience and struggle to remember to live on hope, not fear.
I am glad to see the last day of October coming, October with its emphasis on the color pink and its magazine and newspaper stories about how much closer we are now to a cure for breast cancer, a cure that still seems to me to be so elusive, it seems more like a fantasy than a possibility. When the children ring the doorbell tomorrow night, I will remember as always that Halloween eight years ago, but each year brings me a little closer to security, pushes the fear a little further away from me, and reminds me that I am just here to leave a footprint for someone else to step into.