Friday, March 10, 2006

The First Day

Only after I had been diagnosed with cancer was I introduced to an odd “expression”, but one that, unfortunately, rang absolutely true. Applying the well known in western culture, Christian shortenings of Before Christ (BC) and Anno Domini (AD - meaning "in the year of our lord") to cancer, someone has come up with Before Cancer and After Diagnosis. To me, it represents that fact that the day someone gets diagnosed with cancer, their life (maybe even their whole life) changes. For better and for worse. I suspect it happens even for people who were anticipating it, although I wouldn’t know for sure as it was not my journey (for those who don’t know, I was completely side swiped, after having been told that since I was 32 and had no family history, it was very unlikely that the 3cm lump in my breast was cancerous).

That first day is very tricky. There are so many feelings, not least of which is shock. Then raging fear, and maybe some mad, and a bit of grief, and some disbelief. And they are all swirled in together, and so there might be more, or in different proportions, but who knows because they are a mass, sort of like a storm cloud, circling, gusting, threatening.

And, then, as I say, there is the permanent changing of life. Mostly changing how we look at things, if I recall correctly. Priorities are shuffled. Perspectives re-evaluated. The bad or painful part is that we are forced to feel and taste our own mortality. We have to personally look at the hard absolute truth that faces us all, that one day we will die. I know we all know it and possibly consider it now and again, but it is just that for the diagnosed, it is more current, more real, and more in our face. Of course that is what leads to the good part of the change. What is important to us is drawn up in huge relief from the rest of our life. We get clear and focused and we change what we do with our days to make sure we have time with our loved ones, or we let go of the little details that really don’t matter anyway. Or whatever is true for each person. Basically, we refocus and redirect ourselves.

It is a significant “day in the life”, not one easily forgotten, even though the details of the day get obscured (I think because so very much happens it is hard to remember what and when upon looking back). For me the important thing to remember about it is that this is the first day of the rest of your life. On this and on every subsequent day, you get to choose how you will be with “this one precious life”. For every one that belongs to this weird, creepy club I belong to, I salute you. I honour you and your courage, courage that you are required to have, instead of the kind where you get to choose, like signing up to go to war. Everything will be ok in the end. Somehow.


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