For the last two nights, I’ve found myself in the basement sitting crisscross in the middle of the night. There were two piles in front of me: one with papers ready to whir in the shredder and a small mountain of junk mail envelopes. I couldn’t make them pass through the machine fast enough, ripping and destroying things I still don’t want to remember.
This time of year is always hard for me. I think it’s hard for anyone when they get close to their diagnosis date – however, mine is entangled with my son’s birth – which is another level of complex emotions.
I was able to suppress my sadness around Shiloh’s 3rd birthday by planning his party and keeping busy with work. All the nervous energy floating around October 18th was channeled into crafting a solar system cake and making a buttercream frosting for the first time. – which, by the way, was delicious. Facebook, this time to my annoyance, pulls posts from several years ago and transplants them at the top of your feed. At the top was my first picture with Shiloh in the NICU – the memory is still hazy. I still don’t know how to navigate the feelings of being simultaneously grateful and sad – it’s like being punched in the gut then warmly embraced afterward.
Sometimes sadness is the annoying friend who continues to try to get my attention – and I kept ignoring her calls until I began sorting through our junk mail.
There were crumpled envelopes with things I didn’t want to remember: the letter from my GYN oncologist allowing me to return to work, a pale blue script for hydromorphone 2mg I never filled, health insurance statements for chemo, and copies of checks to pay for health insurance though I wasn’t being paid. It was hard looking at these reminders, and my fingers frantically fumbled to shove them into the shredder.
The weight of the past threatened to pluck tears from my eyes, coupled with the searing pain of a dear friend’s passing due to breast cancer was made harder by her work account being deleted recently.
There were things, however, I couldn’t shred. Among them were mostly prayer and get-well-soon cards. I don’t know that I can read them this time of year, so I plan to put them in a storage box for mementos in the laundry room.
The other memory I want to remember – and only shred the sad parts – was when I held Shiloh and when we finally brought him home. In a way, I need to find a way to leave the sadness behind, acknowledge it happened, but then let it settle in the dust. I’m not there yet, but I hope as I get stronger that I’ll get better at this – this post-cancer life.