3 years ago today, I woke up with the birds and was denied my usual steaming cup of coffee. I threw my hair back in a ponytail holder and grabbed a small overnight bag filled with crossword puzzles, books, and a change of clothes and drove with my dad to the Univsersity of Chicago. I was scheduled for surgery at 7am. Check in was at 6am. I remember feeling pretty numb. I remember pondering the significance of having surgery on Friday the 13th. Would it be my LUCKY day? When we arrived at the hospital, it was still dark outside. The surgical waiting area looked like a library with comfy chairs and books and magazines on shelves and shelves. I remember a flurry of Dr's and nurses all asking me questions, reciting instructions, handing me the GOWN, asking for my signature on financial forms, consent forms and the formidable "Power of Attorney" forms. I signed over my ability to make medical decisions for myself to my dad should I become incapacitated and I was wheeled into surgery. I was lying there pretty still watching the chaos around me. The last thing I remember was watching a nurse or resident grab some latex gloves and the next memory was of a nurse lightly hitting me on the cheeks telling me surgery was over. I remember being confused. Had surgery even started? I remember hoisting myself off the table onto a guerney and the nurses being awfully surprised that I could do that. I guess I didn't know I couldn't. I remember being wheeled into ICU and the family filing in. I had no idea what time it was or even who I was for a little while. I remember taking stock of the tubes and machines, incisions and drains that I was hooked up to. I was listening to my family give me the play by play describing what had happened to me in that 13 hour long surgery.
One of my Dr's, my Radiation Oncologist, indicated surgery would be the gateway back to the life I had before. Go through this surgery and I could put cancer behind me. He was so wrong. It was a gateway alright but not to a place I would have chosen for myself. It was a gateway into a whole new world. Cancer never did take its proper place, the PAST.
Today, three years later, I woke up. I had my steaming hot cup of coffee. I checked my email, grabbed my purse and took the familiar trip to the University of Chicago. I was sent for blood work then headed back to the wait area. As I waited in the exam room, I heard my Dr's conversation with another Sarcoma patient who had just started her journey. I heard fear and confusion in her voice as the Dr. wrote the script for the CT and blood work he wanted. I remember when that person was me. Three years later, the path is different. THe person is different. The desires and hopes and dreams are different. It's been an interesting three years. These three years have changed me, shaped me, created something new. In some ways Friday, Oct 13, 2006 WAS my lucky day but back then, I never would have labeled it such. I would have lamented the past that brought me to that moment. Now, I look at that date as a sort of rebirth. The minute I emerged from surgery, I was changed physically and emotionally. Now, I look to the future it has created for me and feel grateful for all the Dr's and nurses, patients and friends that helped me get here. Now, I hope to pay it forward.