Wednesday, September 12, 2012

This Isn't How I Was Four Years Ago!

Sigh. Four years older. Check. Four years wiser. Some days. Four years better. Sometimes. Four years farther from perfect. So true. Four years into my melanoma journey and that's what I was referencing. It was actually a good moment and a moment, that as I reflected on it during my drive home, helped me realize something about me that I really hadn't vocalized to myself before.

This morning I left home at 6: 25 to go to a school in Warren County that my church has begun a partnership with. I've been cleared to volunteer and was to be there by 8 to assist with a 3rd grade reading class for two hours. Cuuute kids! Enthusiastic teacher! A couple of the girls touched my left arm very gently (that's the arm with the compression sleeve on it), to tell me they liked it. Today was my "sunburst" day. Somehow, I don't think it will be appropriate to wear my snakeskin pattern set (I wear a glove as well). One even asked why I wear it and the children at her table listened with wide eyes as I told them that my arm looks like a balloon without it because it keeps fluid flowing. I didn't get into "cancer" with them.

When 10 am came, I left and went to get a cup of coffee at a nearby Burger King. An older man came in, got his order and sat at the table next to mine. We were the only people eating at the time and I guess he wanted company. He looked at me, smiled, and said, "I just have to ask. I see that's not a cast..." So I gave my more adult answer that does include the "c" word and we proceeded to have a nice little conversation. Just last night he had been at the fair and a woman there had to go find a tent and sit a while. She was having chemo and the fair was getting to her. She didn't look so good. He didn't know chemo did that. I explained that I never did chemo but that I controlled mine, so far, with surgery. I was smiling and being pleasant. He was smiling and being pleasant and he said

"You look like you've accepted it. She didn't."

That's when I said, with a friendly lilt in my voice (poetic, yet true) "I've been dealing with this four years! THIS isn't how I was four years ago! You have to accept some things so you can deal with them. It doesn't do any good to hide your head in the sand where you can't deal with it. It is what it is." And, yes, I did say that mouthful. To which he replied, "I reckon you're right. I hadn't thought of it like that."

Side note: "accept" does NOT mean "like." I'll never "like" melanoma, but I do have to accept that this is part of my life and what I have to deal with. Me. Other people may choose not to accept it.

By then my coffee was ready; they had been brewing a fresh pot, so I got my cup and we wished each other a nice day and I went to the Warren County Recreational Complex where I officially began my rigorous training for our November 17th Aim Walk in Charlotte, NC. My definition of rigorous: a nice couple of laps around the walking trail with coffee in hand. I'll do more tomorrow when I go back. Get in the car, turn on the radio, and it's not long before I hear Kirk Franklin singing, I Smile and this line, "Now every day ain't gonna be perfect but it still don't mean that today don't have purpose. Today's a new day..."

And I smile as my brain starts doing funky things and associating that line of the song with what I told my new Burger King friend, "THIS isn't how I was four years ago!"

Four years ago I was a class A, royal, pain in the butt MESS! Four years ago I was cramming my head with all things melanoma and lived in complete and total fear and chaos. Sure I usually had that blasted smile on my face, but my face did NOT reflect my heart and prayer life. It simply did not. Four years ago I went through really strange spells of talking about it with everybody and their brother, to talking about it with no one, to talking about it just strangers, to talking about it with my nearest and dearest. It never left my mind even when it left my vocal chords. It didn't take much to set off my attirude, but mercifully, I didn't always take my attirude out on the people who provoked it. OK, it probably wasn't "merciful" for the people who did catch it. As a rule, when I would let lose of some attirude, somebody somewhere caught it. Sigh. It still seems to work that way today, though not quite as often.

Four years can seem like a short time ago and it can also seem like a lifetime away.

Looking back, even my far-from-perfect days were replete with meaning and purpose and that has shaped me into who I am today.Who would I be if I had not been NED these four years? Who would I be if my stage 3b progressed to 4 in those four years? I don't know. I may find out one day because that is the thought that now has space in my brain. Four years ago I was at the beginning of a ten year statistic. Now I'm four years into that and doing well. For me, that's not an easy place to be. But it's a blessed place. It's a place and a day with purpose.

BTW, though the thought about a possible stage 4 one day has space in my brain, it's not running rampant! I'm not obsessed with the thought. Just aware. I have to have a better purpose than being obsessed with melanoma. My melanoma. I suppose I am borderline consumed by the melanoma of other people, but that's a purpose for me.

Today's a new day and if tomorrow gets here for me then that will be new too and I'll be moving even farther away from who I was four years ago and closer to who I'll be when the next six are up.

But I remember that Carol. Barely. In six years will I remember who I am today?

The future six years will take care of themselves and will be what they will be. Whatever they are and whoever I am, I'll have purpose and my days will have meaning.

For that...

I am grateful!