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I am Still Here

I am still here. Yes, I know, it is a few simple words, but I’ve pretty much attached meaning to them. After five years of constant therapy, biopsies, scans, and surgeries, I am still plugging along, trying to savor the importance of each day.

My original diagnosis included a dated time stamp of my expiration. Doctors, who deal in life and death on a daily basis, can get a little arrogant with their prognosis, determining that I had six months left of my days on this earthly trip. They were wrong: that was five and a half years ago, and yup, I am still here.

I could recite the seven different kinds of chemo I’ve subjected myself to, the number of poisonous infusions ranking in the triple digits. I could launch into some hefty description of the post-surgical healing or perhaps describe what having a stroke feels like, but I will spare you the details. After a while, it all runs together, the story line vaguely familiar, kinda like Grey’’s Anatomy.

I have regrets. The trips I didn’t take; the friendships I didn’t pursue; the challenges I didn’t face. I think of the chances I ran from; the experiences I didn’t consider myself capable of accepting. I question a lot of those moments. In the dark of night, those things rear their ugly head, wanting to be acknowledged, even though that part is a bit unsettling.

But there have been successes, too. I spent 36 years in the classroom, teaching some remarkably amazing kids. And when that part of the career ended, I tried my hand at writing, with 8 books on the Amazon book shelves. I hope that I get to leave a bit of myself behind, to be remembered in the years ahead.

I can’t tell you why I am still here. Only God can unlock that mystery. Stage IV cancer of any type is a proverbial death sentence, an old knock in the old gun belt of life. But I have survived it all, outliving my “ovarian cancer sisters,” the ones who I used to text with while in treatment. I suppose that I am one of the lucky ones, the kind the nurses whisper that I look “well,” even after they observe the word "terminal" in my chart. I smile, a little embarrassed by my ability to survive the unthinkable just six short years ago. We never know where life will take us. Someone once called me “weak” in a fit of anger over something stupid that I had done. At the time, that accusation stung. I might be clumsy or scatterbrained or lazy, but I am not weak, that much I know.

And now, I am completing two weeks and ten full days of radiation, a much-needed “break” from the constant bombardment of IV infusions. It has been different, an unusual experience, not without its pitfalls. But some of them are downright funny, so I guess that’s a blog for another day. Post-stroke, the words don’t come as easily as they once did, but I am trying. I guess I still have stuff to share, something to give you all a quick peek into the roller coaster world of living with cancer. And maybe, just maybe, it is why I am still here.

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