One of my favorite movies is (500) Days of Summer. The story follows a guy named Tom as he chronicles all the highs and lows in his relationship with a girl named Summer over the course of a year and a half, or 500 days. Sometimes the story is told backwards, other times it fast-forwards to the present. Even though it’s told out of order, in the end it all makes sense why Tom tells it the way he does.
As I’ve been reflecting on my own past 500 days, it’s amazing to think of all that has transpired since Day One. November 24th will be Day 500 in my own ongoing relationship… with cancer.
Much like Tom, my memories tend to come back to me all out of chronological order. They seem to come back grouped in sets of emotions or feelings, like confusion, fear, pain, hope, anger, love, and redemption. As I remember every last chemo drip, blood transfusion, and hospital stay, along with every minor and major victory, I realize how strange the concept of time is. When it’s happening, it seems to last forever, yet when you look back it seems like it was just a blink of an eye.
I remember all the hours spent staring at ugly hospital walls and ceilings wondering if I was about to die, and those memories make me feel very old. Yet at the same time, as I walk to class for my junior year of college, it dawns on me how much of life still waits ahead for me. I am only 21, even though I joke about feeling like I’m 81. I’m allowed to be young, to feel young, to want the same things other young people want.
Yes, this experience has made me older and wiser in ways I never anticipated. But my life is not over yet… it is just beginning, if I will let it. I must stop replaying these last 500 days on loop in my brain. I must start a new Day One.
I just don’t quite know how to do that, though. Unlike a romantic love interest, cancer doesn’t let you break up with it and move on. Cancer always sticks around. Maybe it won’t show up physically on the lab reports or scans, but it’s always there, in my hopes, my fears, my uncertain future. Cancer is the ultimate question mark on my life, and I wish I could be certain of a good answer. But I have no answers for the future. I only have answers for right now.
Right now, I did not have any traceable evidence of disease show up in my latest bloodwork. I have not relapsed. I am better now than I was this time 500 days ago. That’s all I can say for sure. And I’m learning to come to peace with that.
I don’t know if there will ever really be a new Day One for me again, but the best I can do is move forward to Day 501 and take it on full-force with the hopes of a Day 502 in the horizon. One day at a time, that’s all anyone can do.
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