A solid mass silently grew on my kidney. An unwelcome addition. Asymptomatic. Discovered haphazardly during a CT scan of my lungs … And it revealed itself.
At first, I was devastated. Will cancer ever leave me alone? It has already visited me twice before. First, breast cancer, also asymptomatic, detected during my very first mammogram at the age of 42, and then a troublesome mole that tested positive for melanoma.
I seemed like the odd one out, the red-headed “stepchild” in my family, which made me question if I was adopted. My mother had olive skin and jet-black hair, just like my siblings, while I stood out as the lone redhead. My dad happened to be Irish, carrying the recessive gene. The rest of the Irish family lived up North, and I rarely saw them. There were plenty of redheads up North.
So, I’ve met my fate. Initially devastated, but I’m growing accustomed to the idea of my impending nephrectomy. It’s not the end of the world to me. However, something profound has changed within me.
I’ve come to appreciate the crisp, cold air of winter. I love the fall season. I cherish my family and friends. I adore my furry guardian angels, my pups. I find joy in connecting with strangers and engaging in that friendly chit-chat, a shared human experience with someone I’ve never met before.
Sometimes, I feel sadness, but I also experience happiness, strangely so. Could I choose how I’ll eventually pass away? Perhaps surrounded by family, with a little Led Zeppelin playing softly in the background, and maybe a touch of morphine to ease the way. Lighting a candle as I transition, possibly to the heavens.
Despite not always being a “good girl” and leaving my Catholic upbringing behind, I find solace in the idea of Purgatory—an in-between place, situated between heaven and hell. You could say a prayer to guide me out of Purgatory, much like the nuns made us do in elementary school.
I’ve been listening to Tracy Chapman on my new CD since her recent resurgence. I’ve come to understand her song, which isn’t really about a fast car but about escaping a life of monotony…
I remember vividly the neglect I endured from my parents—lacking in food, clothing, and shelter. We had enough food and a roof over our heads, but clothes were often lacking. My mother wore designer clothes, while my father climbed the corporate ladder at IBM with a bottle by his side. Our dysfunctional family slowly deteriorated.
I, too, yearned for a fast car, a desperate desire to go away to college. However, my mother insisted I stay at home and become a nurse. I reluctantly followed her wishes and found my calling in the ICU, a place filled with incredible dynamics, dysfunction, and wonderment.
But here I am, no longer devastated. In fact, I’m beginning to feel like I have a fresh start, a second lease on life, whether it be long or short.
Regrets linger, but they come with a silver lining—the gift of my beautiful children and cherished grandchildren.
I’m OK now, ready to take that fast car to wherever I may ascend, because every day I wake up, I see the sun peeking through my bedroom window. My dog sweetly licks my face; he’s my “alarm clock.” Little Lucy quietly “growls” at me, urging me to get out of bed and take them for a walk in this 26-degree weather.
Despite the negative words my parents once threw at me—calling me fat, stupid, and ugly—I have transcended their influence. Thank you, Tracy Chapman. You were right all along.