grateful amazement

finding wonder…everywhere.

July 2010 – July 2015 :: A Cancer Survivor’s Retrospective :: Day Fourteen

on July 14, 2015

You know that thing when something you see, hear, or smell takes you back in time?

I’m going to be honest here…
That thing happens to me less and less around this Cancer Thing than it used to.
I can see my scars – and believe me, there are plenty of them! – and not have memories of surgeries, recoveries, or treatments swallow me up whole like they used to.
I can hear news stories about cancer and not experience the intense interest or acute anxiety that I used to.
I can catch a whiff or two of some food that made me sick during chemo, or of some other treatment-familiar scent, and not be transported back to that intense place and time like it used to.

When I realize these things…that I’m triggered less and less…that I can drive past the treatment center and not get nauseous…that my day-to-day life is just that – normal, blessedly mundane day-to-day…I’m overwhelmed with deep waves of gratitude.

Gratitude for the chance I got to understand and know myself better through all of this.

Let’s be honest…a spiritual retreat or a European sabbatical would have been a much easier, more pleasurable way to gain that understanding.
That knowledge.
Because, you know what?
Being diagnosed with cancer is hard.
It’s scary and bring-you-to-your-knees terrible.
Some of the tests were extremely painful.
The waiting for results wore me down like so much water boarding. Surgeries carried the unknown.
Recoveries were sometimes agonizingly slow and complicated.
Chemo made me sick. (No big surprise there, but it’s the truth.)
And, losing my hair?
Well, let’s just say that when handfuls of your hair are falling out and clogging the shower drain – and you know the day to shave your head has come – it’s more sobering and grief-filled than I have words for.
There were lots of tears.
But, through it all, I learned so much about the stuff I’m made of.
And about who I want to be when I grow up.

So, even though the sights and sounds and smells don’t automatically transport me back in time like they used to (which I’m actually pretty thankful for, to be honest), the memories and the lessons are all still fresh enough to make a lasting difference if I let them.


October 18, 2012
Here I am again, squarely in the 2%.

You know, the 2% that is left over when someone (for me, usually a medical professional) says something like, ‘This is completely effective/normal/expected in 98% of people.’ And, ‘98% of the time, the outcome is problem-free/positive and permanent.’ And, ‘In 98% of people, this never recurs/happens/etc.’

Let me introduce myself again…Hello, I am the 2%.

The 2% who develop an allergic reaction to the bovine cartilage they use as a sling-like support when an expander is placed immediately after a mastectomy.

This explains the discomfort and infection/flu-like symptoms I’ve experienced on the right side. (The left side is healing beautifully, for which I am beyond thankful!! I can’t imagine having to experience this reaction on BOTH sides!!)

On Tuesday, I was given a 6-day, stepped-down course of steroids, and told to take Zyrtec AND Benadryl — all to hopefully knock down the histamines triggered by the cow bit.

So, here I am…reminded that I am in the 2%, and so very grateful that the meds seem to be (somewhat slowly) working.

Whenever the 2% thing comes up, I joke about being ‘special’, being part of the elite group that makes all those medical professionals earn their keep, and serving part of my purpose in awakening within all of you in the 98% a deep appreciation for your more ‘normal’-ish lives.

The truth is, while I am not always thrilled by falling in the 2%, I am continually and beautifully surprised by the way God chooses to remind me of His creativity and care and curious sense of humor!

God is good.
All the time.

No matter what age you are, or what your circumstances might be, you are special, and you still have something unique to offer. Your life, because of who you are, has meaning. ~Barbara de Angelis

{from my CaringBridge journal}


2 responses to “July 2010 – July 2015 :: A Cancer Survivor’s Retrospective :: Day Fourteen

  1. Kari malingen says:

    Laura, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading every single one of your posts this July…looking back on the five year mark. Obviously, it’s cathartic for YOU, but your words also bring so much wisdom, balance, hope, encouragement and perspective to my life, as well. I’m proud of your steadfastness in trekking back in time each day this month, and in sharing all the goodness God gave to you through a tough human experience. Shine on, my friend! 😍 Kari

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