February 6th is my own weird version of Groundhog Day, except that it doesn’t necessarily repeat the same cycles… It just throws major events in my way.
I fear the day, because it often represents the start of a monumental change.
I was christened on February 6th, 1966. The church later burned down, which really seemed to deliver the “And… she’s OFF!” message.
My father was diagnosed with cancer on February 6th, 1995, just hours after I had handed in my resignation at my safe, comfortable job for the instability of another. And for three months I would be in sales training to learn how to sink or swim.
I went back to the hospital in an ambulance on February 6th, 1998, four days after my son was born on… Groundhog Day. While hemorrhaging, I passed out from low blood pressure and was sent to the OR for emergency surgery.
It was February 6th, 2017 when the biggest bomb dropped. Up until that day, there were only suspicions that I had a mass in my right breast. Could be this – could be that. I still held on to the tiniest ray of hope that it wasn’t my worst case scenario. I had been in for mammogram and ultrasound the week before, and hoped no news was good news.
It wasn’t. Less than an hour before I was scheduled to leave for Ottawa to present my keynote speech to a packed room, my doctor called.
“We need you to get into see the surgeon today ASAP.”
“I can’t,” I said. It wasn’t denial. I don’t think it was denial. There was no time to find an alternate speaker to take my place. Since my topic was the IT world’s buzzword of 2017, our attendees expected to hear my presentation.
The show must go on.
I dug deep into my fearlessness and insisted that I would go ahead with my presentation. And I did.
I went to Ottawa, delivered one of the best presentations of my career, then returned home immediately so I could see my growing team of doctors the next day.
I will never forget that Via train ride home from Ottawa. I cried. I pleaded. I bargained. I resigned. I said I couldn’t do it. I was more terrified than I had ever felt in any other moment in my life. And alone. But I got home, went to sleep and got up and showed up for the next day in my life.
I remember looking into my GP’s eyes and seeing my answer. She and I have known eachother for over twenty years. I knew. She handed me the diagnostic report I needed to carry to the surgeon’s office two floors up in the medical building.
My bi-rad rating was 5 out of 5 … there was no doubt it was cancer.
That February 6th seems like it happened a whole lifetime ago.
I made it through biopsies, surgeries, having a tube snaked through my arm all the way to my heart so my chemo cocktails could be delivered to the largest vein in my body, otherwise it would incinerate the vessel walls.
I made it through dozens of tests, started chemo and was hospitalized without platelets or leukocytes. Chemotherapy is rather medieval in its approach. Almost try to kill the patient without killing the patient.
The first dose almost killed me.
I went through three more rounds of that cocktail mix, another hospital stay in isolation, then twelve more weeks of my third and final chemo cocktail. This one was infused with steroids, Benadryl and Pepcid to prevent my body from reacting to the drug. I spit fury then fell asleep until we reduced my steroid and antihistamine dosage by half.
I broke my leg and refused surgery because I had to start radiation that week. I did twenty rounds day after day while hobbling on crutches with second degree burns to my chest and armpit.
I was beginning to crack and crumble under the weight of managing everything on my own. Life kept serving up life. With multiple “this could only happen to you” one-of events, I nearly lost my grip. I barely remember February 6th, 2018.
But I can’t believe the difference between that one and today.
I crawled when I couldn’t walk. I fought when I didn’t have any fight left. I forced myself to get up, show up and do the work to move forward. I climbed.
And I suddenly realized that life is amazing on the top of the mountain that tried to break me. The best view comes after the hardest climb.
February can throw its best and worst at me, and I will – God willing and with the help of the people who I count on the most – face it fearlessly.
I’ve seen rock bottom, the mountain, the peak and the skies above, while I was the storm that raged the entire time.
And I had the breakfast of champions today: cherry cheesecake!