What is NOT Cancer

We called my daughter Erin just as we were about to hit the road, trying to salvage a couple days of a 5-day invitation to Nantucket. I had not talked to her in 48 hours, a long time for our family unit.

“Hey, Erin.”

“Hi, Mom.”

“So, did you hear? We met with a doctor and she says that what I’ve got is treatable. It’s good news. Isn’t that great?”

“Yeah, Mom. Mom? Guess what?! We went to the candy store in Nantucket today. I got a GIANT box of Warheads! Bye, Mom.”

Note to self: Don’t get too self-involved about the cancer, there are important things going on that are not cancer, the candy room at the Force 5 Water Sports store in Nantucket Town, for instance. Here are some others:

Sitting on the back deck of the Hyline ferry from Hyannis, cradling a cup of coffee, feeling the cool-warm wind blowing though my hair, trying to find the line between cloud and seas, understanding why warships are painted battleship gray.

Passing Brant Point lighthouse, taking in the billionaire’s yachts, the residential mosaic of gray shingles and white trim, the white New England steeples built with whaling money.

Walking the cobblestone streets of Nantucket Town, marveling at the concentration of Lily Pulitzer shift dresses, and at how many garments can be adorned with embroidered whales, anchors or palm trees.

Listening to crickets and birds on the deck of a friend’s gray, shingled summer house.

Drinking a Singapore Sling at two in the afternoon and watching kids play in the manicured garden of the Wauwinet Hotel.

Enjoying the simplicity of chopping an onion for clam sauce.

Feeling the softness of my child’s skin as she asks to be cuddled.

Watching 9-year-olds put on a play with “puppets” made of forks with linguine hair.

Talking, talking, talking, with friends.

Leaning on a windowsill in the wee hours, hearing the gentle roar of a thunderstorm hitting the roof, watching the Sankaty lighthouse flash through the storm.

Watching the sunrise bleed across the sky.

Ordering an embarrassing number of fried clams at a roadside clam shack just before we leave the Cape. Eating them all, and only feeling a tiny bit guilty about that.

For 24 hours, it was not all about cancer. That was good.

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About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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2 Responses to What is NOT Cancer

  1. Lili Millar says:

    Sound like your having a wonderful time. I’m so happy for you. Hal is coming home from a weekend in Tahoe. Erin an Mark had invited us but I was unable to go because of my parents and Booboo. We can’t wait to see you all. I love your blog.

  2. Sarah Goodyear says:

    The Wauwinet! I got to stay there one October weekend on a travel writing junket. What a gorgeous place. Can’t wait to see you this week, glad it was so restful for you.

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