It’s hard to believe that eight weeks ago, I was in Mercy hospital, hooked up to monitors and IV’s, struggling to take my first journey from bed to chair. The task requiring a nurse and my mother and every bit of will power I had to make the half hour trip of 5 steps. I was victorious. I lasted maybe 30 minutes and then took the half hour trip back to bed.
That was the half way point. That short hour and half. Eight weeks before that, I received my diagnosis. Here we are eight weeks later, on a course of tamoxifen and continuing my journey into all the tomorrows I have, a minute at a time. Last night, Gary and I stopped by one of our favorite watering holes, Tall Tales Brewery, for what we thought would be a quick bite. We were treated to an evening of entertainment as a musical duo performed everything from Johny Cash to Phil Collins with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, a set of bongo drums and harmonizing passionate vocals. We sat outside, feeling the unusually cool breeze for a July 4th evening roll across us as their very special arrangement of Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” started up. Guitar licks effortlessly drifted and swirled around the bongo rhythms, building in intensity until they erupted into goose bumps across the surface of our skin. One more minute of my tomorrow flowing into memories faster than those five steps I took in that hospital in another life time.
And then they played Led Zepplin. And there was Keith with me once again, my Led head as Gary put it. I rested my chin on Gary’s shoulder, the scars that cover my abdomen and breast leaned against his back. We drank in the music and all seemed right in the world. I treated myself to mango sorbet while our band wrapped up the evening with an acoustic spin on Hendricks’ Star Spangled Banner. And there was Keith, at Woodstock, witness to that original performance.
My medical oncologist is the one and only, Dr. David Smith. He was Keith’s oncologist. I will never forget his red rimmed eyes as he told me the morning Keith passed away that we had lost the battle. I could think of no one else that I wanted to take care of me for this portion of my treatment. During my first meeting with him, he explained my cancer in just a few simple words. Its well behaved. My breast cancer is following doctor’s orders. Dr. Friedman who performed the mastectomy knows this. Dr. Collins who performed the reconstruction knows this. Dr. Smith knows this. And now I do too. All part of this journey that started with hearing the news, followed by surgery, followed by recovery, followed by treatment. But unlike Friedman and Collins, Dr. Smith and I share something. We know what it means to have well behaved cancer. It means we’ll win this one. I could think of no better way to thank the doctor who lost the battle along side us to Keith’s badly behaved cancer than to be his next Nielsen patient. That and to enjoy every moment I have here on this earth. Each and every one.
Moments like stepping into a musical treat last night. After I type this I’ll meet my son, so we can join Gary at his friend’s annual Saturday fireworks show. Gary is busy right now, helping Bill cook up the chicken. I’ll be on the road in just a few moments to get Zach. Soon enough, we’ll all be at the party, eating and laughing and being in the warm company of friends in the unseasonable cool air of this summer. Then we’ll watch as Bill lights up the sky with fireworks. Tonight, they will be even more special to me than ever before. Tonight they will go off about the same time I was taking my first five steps in that hospital room eight weeks ago. A celebration of my half way point. A display of moments yet to happen. A joyous noise for a well behaved cancer.