Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Living for Today Again!

The radioactive tracer dye is injected into my veins. Now I have three hours to wait until the bone scan to see  if the cancer has spread to my bones. As I sit waiting and thinking about the "what ifs" I am both restless and numb. I've been here before; I am a two time cancer survivor.

I am 47 years old and I have a million things to live for. There are so many people who need me -- my son Jeremy (a traumatic brain injury survivor), my daughter Stevie Joellie (a thyroid cancer survivor), my dog Mr. Max Schnauzer, our extended family and my wonderful circle of friends.  I think of each and everyone of my loved ones and the tears start welling up thinking "No, I am NOT going to get ahead of myself and think the worst."

During  my  last round with cancer in 2008 when I lived through 5 surgeries in one year, numerous blood transfussions, immunosuppressive therapy and chemo I did not allow myself to think about the possibility of my children facing life without their mother as I have. It did cross my mind sometimes, as it does today, but I can't go there, I won't go there, at least not today.....

I pick up a magazine, but I can't concentrate on that either. The latest fad diet or newest spring fashion seems so inconsequential. The housing market, the economy, the war in the Middle East, jury selection in the Casey Anthony trial. I don't care! I have a long, long "To Do" list and I could care less! So I return to my "what ifs" train of thought, yet keep it  light focused on remembering Mr. Max Schnauzers' crazy antics so that I don't become a bawling idiot in the radiology waiting room.

If I were given bad news (let's keep it vague) what would I do?  

I started a list:
  • enjoy my children and my dog every moment
  • write a book -maybe my autobiography
  • publish my poems - I have thousands in binders
  • take my children to Puerto Rico -they never been there
  • go to Sinatra Park in Hoboken and have a picnic on the 4th of July
I really, really got into my list. I almost forgot about the radioactive tracer flowing through my veins finding it's way to my bones. Eventually, the three hours passed, and it was time for the bone scan. Then the waiting game continues. Waiting for results is always the hardest thing to do. I am thinking that I am not leaving this hospital without an answer today. I am thinking that I may have to hold the radiology department hostage if they tell me that my doctor will call me in a few days. But I didn't have to.

The doctor and the radiology department know me well. I have been here many times before; with my father when he was diagnosed with terminal leiomyosarcoma, with my daughter when she was diagnosed with Stage III thyroid cancer, with my son for routine follow up and with countless other members of our Thyroid Cancer Support Group. They know me and they don't keep me guessing longer than necessary.  I am immensely relieved to hear the bone scan shows no sign of metastatic disease!

I called my kids and told them I'd be home soon. They knew I have been in a lot of pain lately and that I needed a check up but I never told them about the test or about my fears, I don't want them panicked over the "what ifs". They have been through quite enough in their young lives and I want them to be as happy and stress free as they possibly can be, as long as they live. The reality of my medical situation is the same as for every single cancer survivor: I will live the rest of my life with periodic "scares" like this one.

When you are a cancer survivor, the first step is always to rule out a cancer recurrence. Most people with persistent lower back pain woud probably go to their chiropractor first. As a cancer survivor, my first step was to go for a bone scan. But today is not the day to dwell on that. Today is a day I am feeling like an Eagle soaring in the sky!  Later when I talk to a lifelong friend living in St. Thomas I tell her about my list and that she made it on the list.  She asks, "Why don't you come for a visit?"

And that's a good question! How absurd to say, "But I got good news. The cancer has not spread!" I told her I would think about it. And I did! For several days I thought about my list. Was it the "I'm dying" list? That's how I had secretly entitled it in my mind, but should it be the "I'm living" list? I started thinking about how amazing it would be to sit somewhere in Hoboken NJ, sipping on a Margarita watching the 4th of July fireworks like it did so many times before I ever got sick and celebrate the fact that I am living.

Oh, I could come up with an even longer list of reasons  I should stay living in Orlando FL, work more, focus on my "To Do's" But what fun would it be?  What exactly would it all do for me? The work and the "To Do's" will always be here or there and everywhere. It's a choice I have to make about how and where I want to live my life. I am choosing to live where I am the happiest and to enjoy my life today and everyday from this moment on.

I am moving back to New Jersey. I bought plane tickets for April 16th, 2011. I don't have a plan or a place to live for that matter, but my heart is singing and full of hope. I am living today for today and that's good enough for me!

About The Author: Wilma Ariza is the Founder Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund a Project of United Charitable Programs Inc., a 501(c)(3) Public Charity Tax ID 20-4286082 Progam 102442. In 2008 her daughter Stevie JoEllie was diagnosed with State II Follicular Thyroid Cancer a few weeks after her 21st Birthday. Both her daughter and Wilma are 2 time cancer survivors.

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