Really. I think that in many ways, this is the happiest time of my life.
Obviously, in many ways, things are tough. When I’m actively in treatment, sometimes I’m in so much discomfort that it really affects my mood. And sometimes there are dark moments that are the complete opposite of happy. And the strain that my illness is putting on my family, especially Peter, doesn’t make me happy.
But the big picture is pretty bright. The lessons of cancer have settled deep into my body, lessons about the meaning of family and self and community. Lessons about the fleeting nature of life, and how today is life, not just preparation for a richer, thinner, more powerful, more adventurous, less cluttered, less weedy life in the future. Today is the adventure and the clutter isn’t really hurting a thing.
I’ve moved into my cozy little transplant room, complete with cable TV, Wifi, a private bathroom, a cheerful comforter that used to be in Saski’s room, pre-big girlification, and a wall of family pictures that I had blown up and framed for this experience. When I was choosing the pictures to enlarge, I had planned to select them from archives in which I was more powerful, thinner, less bald…..times that might have appeared happier to outsiders. And I was happy then, too; no worries, my friends. But I wanted to surround myself with pictures that make me grin, and they all seemed to come from the last year. Zach, in his Halloween bat suit, lounging against our Obama yard sign. Saski in a close-up, on her first day of school last September. Me, bald as a bat, with freshly bathed kids perched in my lap for a story. Peter and I at Herb and Allison’s wedding, feeling sparkly. The kids on the train tracks at Will’s last concert, looking like the album cover for a new acoustic duo. All the good times we’ve had this year, because my family is so in the now, living for the silly, thrilling, cozy moments that occur so much more often, now that we’re paying attention.
I brought some other pictures, too….a gorgeous family picture (minus Mom, the eternal camerawoman) on the hillside at the farm, October 99, with the leaves in full color, and Peter and Marc, the new boyfriends, included. One of decades of team photos from the Christmas brunch from the Gray-Lemoine-Lydon constructed family. And two candids from our wedding, which was without a doubt the beginning of the happiest time of my life.
Yes, this has been a hard year (I guess we’re headed toward the 18-months-since-diagnosis part). But hard doesn’t also mean miserable. I worry that the people around me have been feeling the misery more than me, because their lessons, the lessons of loving someone with relapsed cancer, are different, and maybe less conducive to happiness. I get a lot of attention because of my illness, but Peter, Saski, Zach, Mom, Dad, Ruth, Gary, Suzy, Will, and Suzanne are going through something pretty life-altering, too, and it is my hope that the lessons they are taking out of this experience can help them find their own happiness.
I say it a lot, for many different reasons. I am a lucky, lucky girl.