Oh my gosh, I cannot believe what a difference a day makes. Rich had his scans last Monday and on Tuesday we found out that he doesn’t have any active cancer. The last thing that the doctor said was “have a great summer.”
I hadn’t even been thinking about the summer. Getting through one day at a time was the only thing that I could think about. The idea of a whole summer ahead never crossed my mind. I know that in life we only know for sure that someone will be in our life for that minute. Anything can happen at any time to anyone. Somehow even though we know this we still spend our lives believing we have plenty of time. That all changes when you find out someone you love has stage 4 melanoma. It becomes even more apparent how short time is and how important every minute is. The odd thing is it’s no easy task to actually live loving each of those moments when there are side effects and worry about the cancer hanging over you. It’s like a shade gets pulled down and even though you keep trying to let the light in you find that you are just fumbling in the dark hoping for the shade to go up again.
When Rich was diagnosed our life changed on a dime. We didn’t talk about the future any more. Plans and dreams we had seemed to just vanish. We didn’t talk about not having a future either. It was just not there. Our lives were spent researching melanoma and worrying about that as well as possible side effects. We would go out and do things together but it just couldn’t be like it was before he was diagnosed.
When we got the news I was flooded with emotions. It was like someone hit the reset button though I soon learned that we will never go back to the way things were before. Though I wish we could go back and just erase the past 9 months in some ways it is actually a good thing we can’t go back. We have learned a lot. We have learned about relationships. We’ve learned who sticks around through the tough times and who doesn’t. There have been reconnections and disconnections. That’s how life is. More than anything else we have learned what it’s like to feel like we have a second chance. We have changed and in many ways we have grown.
We left the doctors office talking about things we wanted to do this summer. It was wonderful to sit through dinner together and talk about something beyond tomorrow. I have missed that so much and didn’t even realize how much. The worry isn’t gone. We know about melanoma but something changed where I feel calmer. The stress of Rich’s health does remain but it’s not so overwhelming. I feel stronger. Whenever a thought about what could happen creeps in I have been able to shove it out instantly and think about the future. That “good summer” the doctor mentioned. It isn’t that I’ve been in a negative mood or a positive one for that matter. I was in this nothing zone where I couldn’t see anything too far ahead. It was too scary to get too excited about anything ahead because I didn’t have a clue what tomorrow would bring. I’ve felt like a hamster in a wheel spinning around and around. Not being able to fully enjoy anything completely. When we first heard the news I was really happy but there was some other emotion that was disturbing. Along with the happiness I was still afraid. Afraid of the “what if’s” and I was afraid to get too excited. I didn’t want to feel too good. It’s been so long. It was strange and I didn’t like that feeling. I had been wound up so tightly and unwinding didn’t happen all at once and that bothered me. Gradually the reality of the news set in fully. It was actually real and not just a dream. I started to feel that calmness that I haven’t felt in so long. I see all of this in retrospect and it’s taken me almost a week to sort it all out so that I could post about the great news. Now I want nothing more than to enjoy every second. I can actually look ahead and see the future. This is no small thing. Once the future goes dark it’s tough. Even though I’ve never let go of hope that Rich would be ok it felt like our lives were just in limbo and we didn’t see a way out. We couldn’t go back to normal and we couldn’t find an acceptable new normal. Now I feel like we can find that new normal. One where our lives have been altered drastically but where we have learned to appreciate so much more than we could have before.
Rich has always dreamed of having a Miata. I really want him to go get one now. Enjoy it, experience it, have some fun. Summer is coming so why not get one this summer. Drive around with the top down. I used to think it was a bit impractical to have a car like that but I don’t feel like that any more. Why wait? If it’s something he’s always dreamed of having and it’s possible to get it he should go for it. Now, not someday. Someday we haven’t thought about in nine months.
We may begin this chapter seeing the future from scan to scan. As time goes on that will change too. Maybe the day will come when we don’t think about when the next scan is but for now “have a nice summer” feels like a lifetime ahead.
So many people have suggested we take a long vacation. I understand that. It’s a great way to celebrate such great news. Rich and I do hope to get away for a weekend this summer. One thing that is hard to explain is that since the news I have felt like I’m already on vacation. A vacation from that limbo. It’s like stepping out into the bright sunshine and soaking in every minute. It’s an incredible feeling.