Usually it takes me forever to remember to write the new year, but this year I’m in such a hurry to be done with 2017 that I don’t even have to think about which year to write. I’ve been waiting for 2018 for weeks now.
I know many people desperately wanted 2017 to end, and for me, beginning a new calendar year makes it easier to feel that I am not just symbolically, but actually, putting my cancer behind me. That breast cancer I had? That was so last year. I mean really, such old news.
Any cancer patient will tell you, though, that the end of invasive treatment doesn’t mean the end of cancer in one’s life. My surgery and its recovery are both long over and I finished my twenty sessions of radiation on December 22, but I just started Tamoxifen, the estrogen-receptor antagonist I need to help prevent metastatic disease, and I’ll take that for five years. There are also ongoing MD visits to keep track of, issues to watch for with Tamoxifen, and of course annual mammograms. Cancer doesn’t go away, but it becomes less ominous, less present: scary, yes, but also annoying. More like paying taxes than standing on the edge of the abyss, worried, so worried, that at any minute the ground will give way beneath, and pitch me into the darkness.
But I don’t want to end this post on a low note. It is 2018, and most of my cancer treatment and fear are behind me.
So, back to the beginning. When I was first diagnosed I took comfort in the poetry of Audre Lorde. Lorde finished her last book, The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance, when she was dying of cancer. Still, it is in many ways a hopeful book, and one poem in particular gave me solace when I needed it most: “Today is Not the Day.” The poem begins—Today is not the day. / It could be / but it is not. / Today is today—and ends:
This could be the day.
I could slip anchor and wander
to the end of the jetty
uncoil into the waters . . .
is not the day.
How interesting and wonderful that cancer brought me back to poetry. May all of our year 2018s bring us joy.
Today is today.