Three Strikes

The air presses against me, heavy with humidity, enfolding me. Normally an unwelcome sensation, this particular Saturday it seems fitting that the world outside reflects my insides. I hike up the hill at a quick clip, trailing my dogs. Beads of sweat form along my hairline and my heart starts to race, but not because of the incline. I tell myself if I walk faster, I can outpace my feelings. It’s a lie. My stomach twists into knots and the tears slide down my cheeks.

Eighteen years ago, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. I skipped my friend’s wedding without saying anything until after she got back from her honeymoon. I couldn’t bear to be around people celebrating. But also I couldn’t tell her about my illness and cast an unwanted shadow on her special day. So I stayed at home and cried. I don’t think of that weekend often anymore. In fact, most Memorial Day weekends I don’t even remember this anniversary. Usually, I remember later in the summer, after the fact, that another year has passed since cancer tried to kill me. The distance is nice.

Yesterday, I learned a dear friend has cancer, ten years after surviving a different cancer. Medical procedures plague her family story, one that’s not mine to tell so you’ll just have to trust me that this is so fucking unfair. I know that feeling, processing such news while everyone else barbecues, laughing with friends, like I’ll do this weekend because the cookouts have already been planned.

I walk even faster, primed with adrenaline. She has cancer again, a different one. I think she will be okay though. I do. But nothing slows down. A wave of nausea washes over me. She will be okay.

I’ve had three near misses with cancer myself: A melanoma in my late twenties, breast cancer in my mid-thirties, and two pre-cancerous colon polyps at fifty. Any of these left untreated would have killed me. That’s a fact. Most days I like to think that cancer had three strikes with me; You’re out! But today I believe I’m the one that’s out. Today I feel the weight of my body’s propensity to allow mutated cells to grow unchecked. Today I am certain a tumor grows somewhere inside of me, only I won’t know where until it’s too late.

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15 Responses to “Three Strikes”

  1. PatriciaJune 1, 2016 at 9:32 pm #

    That last paragraph is … I don’t even know how to describe it. My sister had breast cancer twice- partial mastectomy and it came back in her brain and lymph nodes. Since her passing, my cousin and my aunt have also been diagnosed. My aunt is still fighting. Your words resonate with me although I have never yet been diagnosed, I fear it is just a matter of time. I wish you much health and happiness.

    • StacieJune 2, 2016 at 11:05 am #

      I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope you never get diagnosed, but at least you are likely to be carefully monitored given your family history. Catching it early is so important.

  2. BeerayJune 2, 2016 at 1:11 am #

    18 years is a good distance. Cancer is no longer something unheard of. Anyone you meet on the street knows someone who had it.

    • StacieJune 2, 2016 at 11:06 am #

      Yes, I am no longer worried about that particular cancer. It’s definitely gone. But other ones can happen and my body seems permissive. Most days I’m optimistic though.

  3. SeraphinaJune 2, 2016 at 8:04 am #

    Thank you for sharing this. I can’t imagine how scary it is to live with the threat of cancer after having so many near misses. I hope that you never have to live through that again.

    • StacieJune 2, 2016 at 11:07 am #

      Thank you, Phina. I hope so too. Usually I can bury those thoughts but sometimes they come on in full force like they did this past weekend.

  4. DANIELLE DAYNEYJune 2, 2016 at 8:45 am #

    Cancer sucks. I lost my mom to colon cancer on Easter four years ago. She found out just before Christmas three years before that and neither one of those holidays will ever be quite the same for me, again. Thank you for sharing your honesty on such a wide spread disease.

    • StacieJune 2, 2016 at 11:08 am #

      Cancer does suck. I’m really sorry about your mom.

  5. HemaJune 2, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

    “The distance is nice”. What a wonderful feeling that must be. I hope you always maintain that distance. Thanks for sharing this.

  6. MelonyJune 2, 2016 at 4:59 pm #

    Thank you for speaking about something so personal. That last paragraph says it all. It is so easy to be certain of your fate, and for some it can be debilitating. I’m sorry to hear your friend has the big C again. I hope they get it out soon.

  7. EllenJune 2, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    Frightening! I am so sorry for your friend.

  8. lisaJune 2, 2016 at 6:23 pm #

    Amazing. I love your work.

  9. Nancy LowellJune 2, 2016 at 8:46 pm #

    Stacie, making peace with the unfairness of life is a lifelong struggle. So little is fair… I’m glad you’re well, hope you stay that way, and I hope your friend recovers, and none of it will have anything to do with what is fair.

  10. DashyJune 3, 2016 at 1:45 am #

    It sure takes quite some courage and will to fight through cancer thrice. Yes it is everywhere now. Two of my school mates and a relative were diagnosed too, and it is scary when it is at such close quarters. I am sorry about your loss, and I hope you stay healthy.

  11. PhilJune 4, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

    I haven’t had a cancer diagnosis, but I’m at an age (66) where I know something is coming, I hear its footsteps, youth no longer inoculates me.

    Hope your cancer puts his bat in the rack and stays in the dugout.

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