I’m leaving cancer behind.
That’s been my mantra for the past two weeks as I pack up the house I’ve lived in for the last 12 years. It’s time to move…and time for me to move on.
When we moved out of our very first home…in a beautiful leafy neighborhood in northern New Jersey I cried. Well, that might be an understatement; I bawled. Big fat salty tears rolled down my face as it contorted into the ugliest of ugly cries. It’s a good thing my husband loves me – because there is nothing to love about my ugly cry face. We had only lived in that house for five years but it was where our life together started. In that space we made a home and filled it with laughter, love and memories. We hosted holidays and made beautiful babies. Those babies learned to crawl, walk, run and play and eventually, graduated from cribs to big boy beds. It was in that beautiful bright white kitchen with a gigantic well-stocked pot rack, suspended from the ceiling over the dark navy tile floor, where I taught myself to cook, and cook pretty damn well, nourishing my children and my family. Leaving that home was painful because the memories were splendid, sweet, and at times overwhelming but we were excited about our new adventure in a new state so we took a leap of faith; one that we never looked back upon with regret.
After a few years we ended up back in New Jersey but this time by the shore. “As you wish,” my husband promised me and we built a life in a town just a short drive to the beach with our growing boys. They went to school, played sports, begged for (and got) a giant beast of a dog to run around the yard with and made friends. We kissed boo-boos, renovated bathrooms, and continued to host countless holidays, birthday parties, and barbeques.
We also hosted cancer.
Cancer came into that home just three years after we did…that ingratiating little fuck. It was in that family room next to the weathered brick fireplace where my youngest son asked me, ever so bravely, if I was going to die. It was there, in the yellow kitchen with the black and white toile accents where my oldest son, quite the cook himself, would make me small starchy meals, because it was all I was able to eat, using the pots from the very same pot rack I made his first meals from. I lost fistfuls of hair down those drains, gained an abundance of steroid weight, and recovered from so many surgeries I’ve actually lost count. No really, I have.
We were ready for a change but change takes time and once change came, it came fast. As we cleaned out more than a decade’s worth of stuff, sifting through bins that held science projects, book reports, and sport jerseys there was always the lingering memory of cancer. A stretchy pink doo-rag here, a small pink ribbon pin there. Rubbery prosthetic breasts stuffed in a drawer pink nipples staring up, a pink fuck-cancer wristband in a cabinet and a pink feather boa and pink glittery crown that I typically donned for the walks were found shoved in the back of a closet. All of it, the mementos of cancer, were tossed one by one into garbage bags, recycling bins, and bags marked for donation. Each time I discarded a particular pink relic a simple thought would enter my subconscious, “You are not coming with me cancer. I am leaving you behind.” It’s not how I set out to pack but it just felt right. I’m leaving you behind, cancer, I’m leaving you behind.
Sure, my scars, PTSD, and maintenance medications are all still with me but they are the intangibles. Those are the things no one sees unless I allow them to. Starting today, pink will just be another tint on the color wheel of my life.