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Side Effects



I struggle to find the mundane. I suppose it’s the curse of an anxious and active mind. I’ve focused these last several weeks on recovery, and I have, at least presently, succeeded. My incisions are small and healed. My son saw them for the first time yesterday and ran his fingers over them, and as he did, I explained that they were the battle scars from the fight with the “Sandino.” Sandino is the name he has given to the villain that made me sick. His eyes widened and a smile spread across his cheeks as he touched the four, small red lines on my abdomen. Whoa, he said quietly, in awe.


But even in his admiration there is a shadow that looms, born from something the oncologist said: “something in your body made this.”


I made it. It wasn’t something I absorbed. It wasn’t environmental. It was something my cells created. I don’t know that I’ll ever truly come to terms with that, and that leaves me somewhat fearful. I meet with the geneticist at the end of August, and clarity may or may not come from it. But my body knows a formula that I do not, and that will always stay with me.

Nevertheless, I know I am blessed beyond measure. Catching this Sandino at such an early stage is rare, but I suppose if my body made it, my body could warn me when it realized its mistake. And, if it’s possible, I believe I may have come out on the other end better than I had entered. I found strength I didn’t know I had. Old friendships resurfaced. New friendships formed. I found my voice on the page. I got published (hopefully not the only time). I got a new job. And most importantly, I am acutely aware of all the life, and loss, around me.


A friend called me earlier this week while in the midst of devastation and indescribable sadness. She sobbed into the phone, and I sat silently while she weeped. She has been trapped in torment for years, and with every stroke forward there is a tidal wave of affliction that pours over her, pulling her under. As she tried to describe her thoughts she said she had been thinking of me often. She had been thinking of my trial and my path to recovery. She paused for a moment and then said quietly, “I think of how you have come through. Of where you are now. And I wonder, dear God, what do I have to do to be worthy.”


I had no answer.


I am not worthy.


I know my friend doesn’t wish that I had to fight harder. I know that she just wants the luxury of being able to fight less. It’s a funny thing: to know that your wellness causes others pain, but I know that is the reality of this ‘condition.’ It’s the unfairness of it all. It’s the inscrutable story of cancer.


This is the survivor’s guilt.


I recognize that this may not be the end of this story for me. I could fight this battle again, and if I do, it could be an entirely different battlefield. But until then, I’m going to soak up the goodness. I’m going to honor my friends who are hurting by listening to them until they find their peace. And I’m going to acknowledge that the distant cloud that looms over me, ever reminding me of what could have been, is an ever present sign that I am human, and my body can do horrible, incredible, powerful, beautiful things.


This is my last post here for likely some time. Thank you for traveling this road with me. You have allowed me to babble and bawl and pour out my heart, and you have encouraged me and lifted me and prayed with me.


Thank you.


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