On Saturday, my friend Patty and I went to a birthday party for one of our dear friends. Bev is one of those people that has a huge heart, which was evidenced by the number of people at her party. She’s been a huge support to me during my cancer treatment. See, she just celebrated 20 years of being cancer free. Like me, she had breast cancer and had all the same treatments, although she had surgery first and chemo afterward. Like me, she dealt with being sick and being in pain and suffered from neuropathy. As a matter of fact, she suffered from neuropathy in her feet up until a few years back when she had to stay off her feet for 6 weeks after surgery. Somehow, when she was able to walk again, her neuropathy had disappeared. Apparently the time off her feet allowed her nerves to repair themselves after years of dealing with the pain.
She also dealt with all the fears of not being there for her children (she had three young sons at the time), not seeing them grow up and finding who they became. Well, she has now lived long enough to gain a wonderful husband and 4th son, as well as some daughter-in-laws and beautiful grandchildren. She is truly enjoying her retirement and time with her family. She spends some of her time doing beautiful art work. And she spends some time encouraging people like me to hold my head high and be positive. It has helped me more than she will ever know.
For the birthday party, Bev’s son had served a mexican food bar and as I was scooping some cheesy bean dip, I noticed a shiny purple confetti star had fallen into it and I scooped it onto my plate figuring I’d throw it away later. We had a nice dinner, chatting with Bev’s neighbor and one of her sisters while we ate. When we were done eating, I remembered the star and quickly looked down at my plate. No star. Oops.
“I may or may not have eaten that star,” I exclaimed out loud. Patty laughed. I explained the story with the others at the table with us, who also laughed.
“Well you’ll find out in a day or so,” Patty giggled.
Later on, as we sat in the living room, Bev shared answers to the “Who knows Bev best” quiz that we’d all filled out. One of the questions was how long has Bev been cancer-free? I knew the answer – 20 years. It is what I hope for – a long future ahead of me to live and dream and hope. When she gave the answer, she told everyone that I was fighting the same fight she had twenty years before, and that in another 20 years she and I would be celebrating together- she 40 years and me 20 years of being cancer free. The first time she’d told me this, I was in the middle of chemo treatments. I was very sick and feeling beaten and unsure. But when she said it again at the party, this time I believed it.
This time, I raised my arms and yelled “yes!”. I am starting to feel like I can do this. When I see Bev living such a wonderful life twenty years after going through my same struggles, I began to picture myself twenty years from now – enjoying life, seeing my children grow up, playing with my grandchildren.
For me, getting cancer has been like starting to watch a movie that you know you’ll have to leave before you get to see the ending. What will happen? How will things turn out? How will all the characters feel when the movie does end? I don’t want to leave early! I want to see the characters grow and change and I want to see what they do with their lives. When I spend time with Bev, I begin to feel hopeful that my life can turn out that way too. That someday these struggles will all be behind me and I’ll be able to see all that is in front of me.
On Sunday, though, I was feeling quite sorry for myself. I do that once in a while. I was trying to sew, one of my loves, and I could barely see to thread the needle from my watery eyes, and I could hardly hold the needle correctly because of the numbness and pain in the tips of my fingers. It made me mad and sad at the same time. I thought how unfair it was. I mean, haven’t I had it bad enough already? Do I have to keep dealing with this crap the rest of my life?
And then I happened to think… the rest of my life… I want a long one. At least longer than this. Twenty years? I’d be 69 then. I’ll gladly take that if that’s all I can get. I’d love more, but 20 years sure beats dying now. Numbness and pain in my fingers and feet? Watery goobery eyes from being irritated? Forgetful chemo brain? Even if my hair never grows back – I’ll take all of it, if I can just live to see the end of the movie.
I think I may have eaten that star – I feel it shining in me. Bev’s star from the celebration of her long life. I’ll take that!