Odd.

A year ago I said, “Ask me how I’m doing a year from now.”

So, how am I doing?

Even at the time it seemed stupid but when my second anniversary of being cancer-free came around I was in an emotionally very dark place. Cancer was supposed to change my life, but year two was when I started feeling that it hadn’t really changed anything. It’s not something I should complain about because my life before cancer was good and being able to resume that life, with a few small changes, was something I should have been happy about. I’ll always have the scars, but those are just skin deep, and a year after finishing chemo I was, physically, more or less back to where I was before I’d had cancer. And for most of that year I was fine, but as it went on, the closer I got to the second anniversary, the more depressed I felt about it. September 22rd, 2014, was my last day of chemo. When I was still in treatment I met and heard about people who’d been through cancer and their lives had gone on pretty much the same as before, which is a great thing. There is nothing better than to be able to say, “I survived”. And yet at the time I couldn’t imagine I’d ever be like them. Cancer had changed my life so suddenly and yet, in the middle of it, I couldn’t imagine life without it. I couldn’t imagine what lay beyond. My last day of chemo there was no fanfare, no great celebration. It was just another day at the clinic. I sat in a chair and let a nurse pump poison into my veins, just as I had so many other days, and when it was done I got up and walked out. A year later I hadn’t gone back to the clinic but there had been so much follow-up, so many doctor visits and consultations and new drugs that on September 22nd, 2015, I celebrated my survival even though I felt like I was still fighting cancer. And then over the year that followed, even though I had fewer doctor visits and no reason to think the cancer would ever come back it seemed even harder to accept that it was over. I wondered what “over” meant. On September 22nd, 2016, I looked back on what I’d been through and, difficult as it had been, all I could think was, is that it? The cancer, as far as I knew, was dead and life was back to normal. Was that what I wanted? Shouldn’t things be different? Why had I survived?

What a long strange trip it was.

Last day of chemo–and I couldn’t process it at the time.

Yet I said “Ask me how I’m doing a year from now” because I wanted to give myself something to look forward to. I was staring into the abyss and there seemed to be a strong chance I would fall. Instead I decided to jump.
There’s something powerful about the number three. Three is lucky. Three is the smallest odd number greater than one. The smallest number of straight lines that can create an enclosed space is three. There are three primary colors, three rings in a circus, three laws of motion, three Stooges, three blind mice, three sheets to the wind, three face cards per suit in a standard deck, three miles in a league, three little pigs, three wise monkeys, three men in a tub, the third time’s a charm, there are five stages of grief but you can skip two of them, and three basic particles that make up an atom. If you take any group of numbers, no matter how large, and add them up and the result is three, six, or nine then that number is divisible by three–something that’s obsessed me since I learned it in school. I can’t look at a zip code, phone number, or any string of numbers without figuring out if it’s divisible by three. If it is it makes me happy.
There were three months between my initial diagnosis in June, when I spent three days in the hospital, and my final day of chemotherapy, which came in three rounds, in September. I would have three surgeries–the first orchiectomy, a minor one to install a chest port, and a major one to remove lymph nodes–in the six months between June and December.
So how am I doing?
Every year, every day, every second that I go on takes me farther away from cancer. Maybe it will never be completely out of my mind but I don’t dwell on it like I did. I’m genuinely glad I survived. My wife, the main reason I’m still here, tells me that, according to the doctors, technically the anniversary of my being cancer-free is in December, when I had the last big surgery. I have my reasons for picking September 22nd as my personal marker. The day I finished chemo was a great day, September is when the season just starts to change, and, hey, I’m the one who had cancer. I get some say in this. And yet while I shouldn’t take my health for granted I’ve started to wonder if I’ll even mark the occasion next year, whether September 22nd, 2018 will be anything special, other than a Saturday, and I always look forward to those. Maybe by the end of year three I’ll have stopped thinking in terms of years I’ve survived and instead I’ll only focus on being alive.
So how am I doing?
I’m good. I’m great. I’m odd.

 

16 Comments

  1. Ray V

    Just keep going, one day at a time. Congratulations on the anniversary and on hosting an engaging blog.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thanks for always dropping by.

      Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    Our anniversaries are very close and I feel very close to you now, Chris. Is that odd?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Oddly enough I find that quite normal.

      Reply
  3. Mila

    You did good. You’re doing great. You’re the best kind of odd.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s kind of odd that you should say that. No, wait, it isn’t. I have no idea what I’m talking about here.

      Reply
  4. Margot

    I think you’re a person who thinks and feels deeply. Many people are uncomfortable with that and consider it odd, much like using the term sensitive as an insult.

    You are odd in the best way and I’m very grateful you’re around to share yourself with us.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      This is also a very complicated stew of emotions. Anyway, thank you for seeing me as a sensitive person. I don’t consider that an insult at all. It’s better than not feeling, even though it gets kind of annoying that the wound is still sensitive three years on.

      Reply
  5. BarbaraM

    Congrats on hitting 3! I’m heading into 4 (can you imagine having part of a lung removed on HALLOWEEN?). Fortunately, surgery was the beginning and the end – no chemo. Now I’m just concerned that the insurance will stop paying for the CT scans after 5 years. Well, I guess I’ll worry about that NEXT YEAR! Keep on truckin’ (You may be too young to remember that phrase).

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Congratulations on going into 4! Every year things get a little bit better. And of course I remember “Keep on truckin'”. How could I forget Mr. Natural?

      Reply
  6. Red

    Nice! Congratulations!
    My sister’s a survivor too. I don’t really know if she recognizes a particular day as her anniversary though. She doesn’t really talk about it much.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It can be a tough thing to talk about and I understand that some people prefer to put it behind them. Still the value of marking an anniversary is that with each passing year the chances of the cancer coming back get smaller. I think for most people the fifth anniversary is the first really big milestone.

      Reply
  7. mydangblog

    Yay for Year Three and for many more to come! I hope someone gave you a present on September 22 for not dying. You know how adamant I am that people should get those kinds of gifts:-)

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Now I kind of wish I had gotten a gift, but for my last birthday my wife gave me a bottle of 12-year old Scotch, and I celebrated with a glass of that. It’s very good and I’ve been savoring it, so it’s a gift that keeps giving.

      Reply
  8. Gilly Maddison

    Odd is made up of three letters. Congratulations on another year of distance between you and that traumatic experience.. May the distance grow ever greater and the journey be fuelled by happy times.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      There’s something that never occurred to me: odd is made up of three letters. Three really is a magic number.

      Reply

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