Lisa Bonchek Adams is an inspiring woman with an inspiring blog. Six years ago, she heard the words, “You have cancer.” Those who have been there know how chilling this experience truly is. Her worst nightmare came true when, in October of 2012, her cancer came back. In her lymph nodes and in her bones. Lightning can indeed strike twice. She believes that writing through her blog will be “a record of my love and devotion to my children.” Go ahead and get the Kleenex. She is an amazing writer and an incredible Silver Lining in this life.
This week, she wrote a post called “Expiration Date.” It was so powerful that I asked if I could share it with you all here. Please, get a cup of tea and sit down with this essay. It will move you. Thank you, Lisa, for sharing with us.
It is easy to be happy when you are healthy.
It is harder to know that this may not be true much longer.
People love to casually say,
“Enjoy every moment” or
“We all die some day anyway” or
“Life is fleeting.”
I know this already.
And I know it in a different way.
I don’t need to be told to
fight the good fight to beat it
or the key is to just stay strong
or that it’s mind over matter
or that I should pray for a miracle
or that I will be cured.
Scientifically impossible in my case.
And so, when you say,
“No, that can’t be true.
There must be something that will cure you,
If you want it/pray for it/think it will be so,
You can be healed,”
What you do is force me to assert my knowledge,
Insist upon my diagnosis,
Explain the desperate nature of my disease,
Spend my time defending my sentence.
I know it’s what you wish.
I know you insist because you want it to be the case.
I know you’re grasping at straws,
Wanting to reassure yourself that bad things won’t happen to you,
That bad things don’t happen to good people,
That something awful won’t happen to me.
Trust me, I wish for it too.
But these things do happen.
It has happened to me.
The truth is that wishes don’t count for anything when you’re placing them against cell biology.
I know many healthy people who say the passage of time is bittersweet.
It isn’t a competition but I can tell you that this passage of time is different.
If you could feel it for just a moment you would know.
There is a difference between
I have learned that being nervous about test results,
are not the same as the reality.
Reality is having your oncologist walk in the room
and when you say to him, “How are you?”
and he says, “Not good,”
you naïvely think it must be a problem with him,
or his family and
instead he ducks his head,
takes a breath,
looks at you, and says,
“Your test results were not good.
Your tumor markers are up.”
He knows I know what this means.
He waits for a moment and says,
“I think you have a metastasis.
A few minutes later he says,
“You need to go get a chest x-ray right now.
Go across the street,
I will come over to the hospital and look at it immediately.
Wait for me there.
Then you need to schedule a PET scan as soon as possible.
Have you had any other unusual pain?
A cough perhaps?”
The room spins, the world stops.
My life didn’t end in that moment, but life as I knew it ended for sure.
No turning back.
Reeling, processing, shock.
All you can do is let your jaw drop,
the tears fall,
your body shake,
as I looked at him
in a way that I never had in the six years he had been my doctor,
the only words that came to my lips in response
were to repeat over
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”
Because that’s the only word that could capture how angry
I never have liked the term “to expire” rather than “to die.”
I started thinking about these words though.
We all have an expiration date.
I’ve never thought of it like that before.
We all have one.
It is as if I’ve grabbed a carton of milk without looking.
I took the one in front I guess,
The one with the rapidly approaching date they put conveniently at the shelf’s edge for people to grab when they’re not paying attention.
Except I did pay attention.
I was always paying attention.
No one was more vigilant than I.
I want to put this carton back,
I want to say it’s not mine.
I want to scream it.
This must be for someone else.
The date is too soon but I can’t trade it in for a new one.
The problem is
I don’t know exactly what the date says.