Yesterday was my second day of chemo. I get it done every other Wednesday. The first thing that happens on a chemo day are your labs. They draw blood and see if you are healthy enough to handle it. So on my second treatment day they called my name, brought me to the back, and while the nurse was sticking the needle into my port she said “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be.” I had never seen her before in my life. The question came completely out of the blue. And it was the most wonderful thing I had ever heard. Being given permission to freely think about the future. “New Zealand” I said. “I’ve always wanted to spend my 40th birthday in New Zealand.” She said “that would be a long flight” and then went on to tell me about her imaginary trip to the Virgin Islands.
I got an upgrade on an airplane once. My previous flight had been cancelled so when they got me rescheduled the person at the gate informed me that I had “got the hook up.” I looked at my ticket and it said 1A and I said “holler if you hear me” and put my hand in the air and waited for a high five that never came.
I mention that because I got another upgrade yesterday except this one wasn’t quite as fun as that flight from DC to Charleston. I was told that instead of having stage 3 Colon Cancer that I actually have stage 4. And instead of saying things like “upgrade” and “free booze” they were saying “containment.”
The cancer had travelled to a lymph node in my neck and because of that distance it was a new stage. I was sitting on the examining table while the doctor was telling me this. I always feel so young when I’m sitting on those things. With my feet swinging off the ground. It was a weird time to feel like a kid, when you’re being upgraded to a stage 4.
Because stage 4 is legit. It’s the Walter White of stages. It’s when you quit your job and start cooking crystal meth. I just sat there on my hands and watched my legs dangle. For the first time things felt real. Because in the back of my head I was still a little convinced that I was being dramatic about this whole thing. Like the chemotherapy and the scans and the doctors visits were all just a little bit much. Like using a hammer to push in a thumb tack. When I would tell people I have cancer I would usually follow it up with a “yeah but it’s fine” but in that moment it was the first time I thought “maybe it isn’t fine. Maybe I’m not ok.”
Except that I am. My treatment wasn’t too bad and I took a long nap when I got home. I woke up this morning and had coffee on my patio. Be it stage 1 or stage 17, those numbers aren’t my business. Those are for the doctors. My business is showing up and focusing squarely on the bright side. That and planning my 40th birthday in New Zealand.