Last week I told my cycling buddy about some problems I've been having with my hip. "Oh," she said, pinching an imagined bit of fat on her own hip, "it's a bitch getting older, isn't it?"
No. It isn't.
It isn't a bitch getting older when you surrender cultural stereotypes about aging.
Some 12 million cancer survivors in the US alone are more likely to say, BRING IT, BABY!
Yeah, bring it on.
Something else, even more fundamental, had happened as well.
When the hip pain started the week before in the middle of the night my first thought was that bursitis had kicked up again, not "it's cancer."
Slowly, over the years the fear that an unidentified ache, pain, or symptom might be a recurrence has eased and dissipated.
Actually I wish this had happened sooner, but honestly, you can't ever go back. You can only move forward. There's a lovely woman down the street whose breast cancer recurred twelve years after her treatment. That fact stuck irrationally, an annoying bit of gravel in the back of my mind. Mind you her treatment may have been different, the biology of her tumor probably was, a million differences could have separated our respective cases.
I had no idea how deeply the fear was ingrained until I had my annual check-up at MD Anderson this month. This year I was even "downgraded" to the survivorship clinic and met with a nurse practitioner. I told her about my neighbor and her face softened. "That's just so hard," she said.
It is. As long as I'm here I'll be working to change the reality of cancer for others.
But there's so much we can do -- internally -- to enjoy what we do have. Live life face first. Jump in the fountain. Spend less time looking in the mirror and more time staring at the faces of those you love.
Memorize their features.
Bring everything. Bring it on.