I laid there with my arms over my head, an IV dripping into a vein in the crook of my arm. My knees were bent with a foam wedge under them. As my body moved in and out of the round tube, my body rushed with the chemicals they pumped into my arm. A plastic voice ordered, “take a big breath and hold it.” And then later, “breathe.” While magnets whirred around my body, I could feel the anxiety rising, threatening to close off my airway. Tears gathered in the corners of my eyes. A few minutes later, the Tech said, “are you okay?” I nodded yes, of course. I’m fine. But I thought, I don’t know. That’s why I am here.
According to my research, there is a name for this phenomenon. It’s called, “Scanxiety.” It’s the specific anxiety that comes from follow up testing after a major illness, like cancer. My thoughts run the full spectrum of imaginations. I’m fine, there is no reason to worry. There may be something to worry about, but you won’t know until after the testing, so don’t borrow it. What if its back or there is more… Don’t worry. Wait and see.
For months, I’ve been getting stronger, healing from the surgery, and recovering my life. I have overcome the challenges and picked up and begun to move forward. I’m glad I’ve had time to breathe a bit. I went to physical therapy to get stronger and I’ve regained my stamina. I’ve begun to think about new goals and new plans in my life. Finally, I can see a bit down the road and imagine a space for creativity and new things to take root.
And now, it’s time for the follow up testing that will determine what the next few months look like. Last week, I returned to the clinic for blood work. This week, I’ve gone in for both x-rays and a CT scan. I drank the milky liquid, put the johnnie back on. I stepped out of my real life in to the vulnerable world of a patient. I’ve revisited the site of the most traumatic days of my life. I walked the long hallways, sat in the waiting rooms, and smelled that hospital smell again.
Next week, I will meet with the surgeon to discuss the tests. Keith will be there. We’ll go out for lunch after. We decided returning to work isn’t really an option.
I wish I could say that no matter what, I am determined to live all my dreams. But this week, it feels like there is a big question mark on the horizon. I can’t see any further than the doctor’s office. I can’t plan from here. It feels as though everything has shriveled up and pulled inside. So, I will wait.
The other day, I sat with a friend who has lived through more bad days than anyone should ever bear. As we talked about the reality of this moment. She offered the perspective of ten years of annual scans in her life, and many more in the life of her only son. It doesn’t always feel this up close and personal. It doesn’t ever really go away. This is it for us. Life has shifted and brought with it a new perspective.
From this new vantage point, I can see the landscape of my life with a new eye. Life is oh so fragile from where I sit. Before now, I always imagined life would continue more or less as it had. Now, I can feel the thrum of life below the surface and recognize its value in a different way. Life can change on a dime… I have known this before, but I know it differently now. I recognize the slip of time and see the shadows differently. This has made what matters most come clearly into focus.
The wonder and beauty of my ordinary life takes my breath away. I am moved, awed by its intensity and grandeur.
The simple beauty of my mom’s voice.
The feel of clean cotton as I push my toes into the warmth at night.
My son’s smile as he greets me with a warm hug.
The warm weight of a cup of tea before dawn.
The glint in my oldest daughter’s eye as she catches mine across the room.
Watching my niece become a princess on her birthday.
The glow of our home on Sunday morning.
A morning catching up with my girl over pancakes and bacon.
Simple hours spent with no agenda.
Driving through a redwood with my sister.
The squeal and smile of that boy when I show up to say hello.
The smell of chicken soup on a cold November night.
The thick weight an ancient forest.
The familiar feel of my head in the crook of Keith’s arm.
The joy of cooking waffles for my people.
There are things beyond my home and family I hope to accomplish. There are places I long to visit. There are projects I’ve envisioned that have not yet been created. I am fully committed to live not only the length but also the width and depth of my life. And yet, these simple moments are easy to lose sight of. They aren’t flashy. These are the kind of days that fill the background in our lives, the ones we can so easily take for granted. For me, these days have become the focus of my living. I hope I never lose sight of the wonder right here in front of me.