I was reminded of something recently. In 2005, the first time I faced cancer, my oldest son, John, was in kindergarten with Mrs. Keim. Now I am facing it again, and my youngest – the boy I was pregnant with that terrifying year – is in preschool. And his teacher is Mrs. Keim.
I think the best part of cancer is probably the gifts. For instance, after surgery the first time, my mother-in-law gave me a beautiful journal. It has the Willow Tree angel, Serenity, on its cover and says, “Calm the soul, free the spirit.” I love blank books, and those who know and love me keep me pretty well stocked in them. And since I don’t journal every day, it sometimes takes me a while to get to each of them. You know what blank book I am writing in now that I have cancer again? That gift from Jane.
My younger sister, Charity, got married in 2005, when I was first diagnosed. And I guess she made a decision then to name her first daughter after me. In 2008, after losing her first baby through miscarriage, Charity had an ultrasound to see if her three-month pregnancy was still healthy the same day that I found out a suspicious spot in my bone wasn’t cancer again. The baby of that ultrasound became Nola Serenity six months later, because Charity decided you shouldn’t only get someone named after you if you die.
The day Nola turned two – the very day – a very nice, very sorry nurse told me that my lung biopsy showed cancer after all. And a friend of Charity’s reminded her Nola is named for me because I lived.
This week, the day of my first appointment since being given the diagnosis again, while I talked to a thoracic surgeon about the surgery that should cure me of cancer but basically terrifies me otherwise, that very day only a few hours away, Nola got a sister named Violet.
What do any of these things mean? Maybe nothing in the whole scheme of things, but everything to me. They mean we’re connected, we’re not alone. They mean life and death are so tangled up that you can almost always rejoice more than not if you try hard enough. They mean that sometimes things come back around. Some of them you really wish wouldn’t. Most of them you’re so glad you get to experience again.