Ten years ago this week, I stuck my final chemo needle into my belly, depressed the plunger, and burst into tears. I shoved the needle in my sharps box, and danced around Emmett, Lucas, and Cooper screaming, “I’m finished!” They thought I’d lost my mind…
Eleven years ago this week, a doc told me that there was a 65 percent chance I wouldn’t make it here, to this 10-year mark. It was statistically more likely I would either have a recurrence, or I would die. That week eleven years ago, I started the first round of daily, two-hour-long infusions. Anxious, overwhelmed, and terrified, I settled into the chemo chair and tried to relax as the nurse connected the IV to my newly-installed port.
The same morning, another patient started his first round of chemo. His nurse came over to my chair. “You two will be friends,” she said, introducing us. “You’re the same age, same cancer, same treatment. You can compare notes!”
We didn’t become friends. We saw each other for two hours every single day but never spoke, not really. A shared diagnosis isn’t really a foundation of friendship.
That other guy, he worked. As soon as he connected to his IV, he pulled out his laptop and typed. I read, napped, watched TV, gossiped with my beloved chemo nurse.
That other guy, his wife who was hugely pregnant, dropped him off each day and then left–I’m guessing being in a chemo suite isn’t great for a fetus.
He kept busy; I kept to myself.
We showed up each day and, over time, we looked different. We lost weight and hair. Instead of him working or me reading, we both ended up just sort of sitting–it’s exhausting to feel bad all the time–but we never really talked.
Then, that other guy stopped showing up.
I asked one of the nurses if he was finished. No, she said. They’re trying a different treatment.
I kept at it, eventually graduating from the two-hour daily chemo drip to an at-home shot that I administered to myself.
I returned every week to pick up more needles and have my vitals checked.
And then one day, I went into the oncology office for a vitals check and prescription refill, and I learned that other guy, well, he died.
This week, as I celebrate hitting 10 years cancer-free, I can’t help but grieve for the little boy who will turn 10 this year never having known his father.
I grieve for my best friend who is currently dealing with a spate of her own shitty cancer-related complications.
I grieve for the other 65 percent of people who won’t have the chance to share their 10-year victory.
I grieve for the millions diagnosed with cancer each year.
And, yeah, I’m also celebrating because fuck cancer.
I got to win this one, and it changed nearly everything about my life and the way I live. Truth be told, I couldn’t have gotten here without the dogs, too. It’s why I wrote the book I’m currently querying. It’s why I feel solid that this is the path my life is supposed to be on.
I’m grateful for you. So many of you have been with me for this entire past decade. We’ve created a community in this space around our shared love of dogs, and I can’t wait to walk this path with you for the next decade.
I’m grateful to arrive at this point, this “cancer-free” point. The dark specter that’s hovered behind my back for the last decade has receded a bit. The path forward is bright and clear.
Now go give your dog a scritch for me!
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you. — L.R. Knost