On Tuesday, I flipped the calendar to a new month. October.
The leaves have turned ever so slightly in these first few days, though the bulk of that work can be credited to September. It is only the fourth, afterall. But as the vibrant colors of fall prepare to overwhelm us, even the most optimistic among us knows what this means. Cool weather, shorter days, and eventually, snow and ice.
We are all so ambivalent about October.
For me, there are other reasons. I was born in October. For the past 43 Octobers, at least one day of the month brings a celebration of me! Parties, dinners out, gifts, gatherings with friends. Who doesn’t love the month they are born? (Cue the naysayers.)
But October is also the month when I first understood I would die.
About this time six years ago, cancer came knocking. I don’t exactly know what day to mark for this occasion. The week was a gradual unfolding of the worse news of my life. On October 3, I was admitted to the hospital. On October 4, I saw an oncologist. On October 7, I was told I needed surgery. On October 8, they confirmed the presence of cancer. On October 9, I had surgery and learned I had stage four serous papillary endometrial cancer. Every day since October 3, 2007, I have thought about cancer. Some days, I could think of nothing else. Others, it was just a faint memory.
When this time of year comes around again, I always feel an immense gratitude to Jesus. Though I am not going to do the research now to confirm the exact figures, I believe my odds were well below 50% percent that I would be alive two years after my diagnosis, much less six, and currently cancer free.
But I also get an ache in my abdomen where three scars mark me permanently, and a thick fear hangs low in my heart like a morning fog. I dread the anxiety of the constant three-month checkups, and I fear a fourth recurrence.
I am so ambivalent about October.
The past few days, though, I have been thinking about all the things that Jesus has given me in the past six years, things I was certain would never come. Today, I thank Jesus for:
- my husband
- my three step-sons
- the weddings of my two sisters and brother
- the birth of four nephews
- six more birthdays
- six more Christmases
- six more Easters
- friends who have married and had children
- trips to China, Seattle, Montana, Texas, California, Vermont
- opportunities to write and edit at The High Calling and Tweetspeak Poetry and others
Photo by Joe Lanman, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.