A few days ago when I was checking my email, a name which is always attached to both my surgery record, diagnosis, and chemo regimen was in the inbox, Dr. Stephanie Wethington. Though I’ve had countless doctors and nurses treat me, it all began with her saving my life during surgery and separating my body from the metastasized ovarian cancer.
She took the burden of telling my husband who just held our son for the first time and my parents that I had ovarian cancer. I know it’s her job, but it doesn’t make it easier and the kindness she showed was beyond anything we could’ve asked her. I’m grateful she took the burden of seeing my family’s first reaction to the news and saddened she wasn’t able to also share in the moment of a clear CT scan, when I burst into tears of relief in the last office I saw her with my report in hand. Stephanie still checks up on me because a disease which tried to sever my ties to the living world entwined me to the core to others.
I can’t say I’m happy cancer happened. I’m not. The very thought turns my stomach more than Cisplatin or Taxol. Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I know the cold bathroom floor is still the most comfortable place. I’ve spent too many weak twilight hours huddled on cool tile. But I’m constantly tugging on these red strings of fate in a scarlet spider web only a breath of death could’ve illuminated.
For all those who treated and are treating me, I don’t want to talk about how my body is feeling or if I’m worried about the neuropathy, or if I’m having scar tissue pain, or if I can sleep through the night, or how my blood work is looking. I want to tell you everything else.
My husband, our son Shiloh, and I are all good and healthy.
Shiloh is almost two, has eight teeth, is as strong headed as I am, and loves cars.
I finally have longer hair than him.
He doesn’t remember his mommy hooked to machines or bald.
We moved out of our apartment and into a town home where I’ve never been sick.
I rescued a Husky named Luna from the shelter. And although she eats Tupperware tops, poops on our deck, chases my cats, and is on anti-depressants like me, she’s the best impulse decision I’ve ever made because we’re both recovering from something.
I’m back in the classroom again and a student wrote me a letter this week. It said I was her favorite English teacher EVER, and she doesn’t know what she will do without me next year. I’m so happy to be back teaching high school.
I’ve started my second masters in Creative Writing and plan to publish a collection of poems about ovarian cancer and maybe a novel or two.
Most of my scars are white.
Tonight, I was not in bed writhing in pain. I helped my little one brush his teeth after a bath, read him four books, and put him to bed all by myself.
My thank you is living.