I returned home today, to this:
Justin swears that PUP was the one who wrote “Welcome Home” on the front step and picked the flowers and put them in water.
But, I know it was him.
And, it was reassuring to come home to a place where I know I am loved and cared for. I can’t help but count my blessings — my ironic-how-can-this-happen-again blessings.
I mean, what are the odds of falling in love twice with the same person (twenty years later!). And, then, what are the odds of having that same person hold your hand through surgery with the big “C” hanging over your head.
Looks like we are in to break some records, or at least, beat those odds.
Yesterday, while meeting my new doctor in Oregon, I found myself playing the same patient role I remember so well — which involves me cracking jokes, being sarcastic and making light of all this serious stuff.
I can’t help myself. It’s like a reflex.
I get all amped up and nervous and turn into some sort of terrible stand-up comic.
When my doctor first walked in the room she said, “Oh my goodness, you look like Gwyneth Paltrow!”
I rolled my eyes and laughed and made a joke. “I don’t mind, as long as she never does anything stupid, it’s a complement.”
And that’s when the jokes started vomiting out of my mouth. It’s my go-to coping mechanism. Like I said, I can’t help it.
My doctor walked me through the potential side effects of my upcoming surgery, including the potential damage to vocal cords which could lead to a raspy voice.
“You mean I could come out more sexy?” I raised my eyebrows with a grin.
She laughed, a kind, doctor type of sympathetic laugh, and said, “Never heard it put that way before.”
Then she turned on the machine next to me and began walking me through the ultrasound images of my thyroid nodules — the cave-like images on the screen.
“Now we turn on the doppler like images” she said as she showed me the bright, blinking red spots that indicate where blood and heat flow.
“Oh, look, it’s raining over Boston!” I exclaimed in my best weatherman voice.”
I immediately regretted it.
I then started wondering… what is wrong with me. “Shut up, already, Jamie!” my mind kept telling me. But the jokes didn’t stop there.
As she walked me through the rest of the side effects and her personal statistics from over 3,000 surgeries I dead panned, “You know, I write a daily blog, so this will be covered. No pressure.”
And then the reasonable voice inside my head scolded “Jamie. Just. Stop. Talking.”
Eventually, we got to the part where she asked me for a run down of my medical history. As I described the events of my life, the cancer, the surgeries, the treatments, et. al., she stopped writing notes and looked up at me.
“You were a very brave teenager and you are a very brave woman, Jamie.”
It took me off-guard. And I didn’t have any jokes left in me because I knew, somewhere inside my seventeen year-old heart and my thirty-nine year old brain that she is right.
I am brave. I have been brave. But it’s never been my choice.
It seems to me that a brave soul would be the firefighter who runs into the flames to save someone else — because somewhere along the line it was their choice. A brave soul, it seems to me, is the one that had another option. And that, I have never known.
It is this unique “country club” as my doctor put it — that I belong to. The one where you don’t ask for permission to play, the one no one wants to belong to in the first place. But it’s mine. And, hey, if she wants to call me brave, I’ll take it. I’ll wear it as a badge of honor — because, really, we all should.
For whatever “country club” it may be that we accidentally joined.
I happen to be in the one that has “atypical cells, visible lumps, and childhood radiation.” It puts me in a club that has a 50% chance of thyroid cancer.
And that reminds me…
I once, not that long ago, had someone very close to me tell me that I had a “bad life” — seriously, I quote, those were her words. They were very hurtful, but now, in retrospect, I’m glad she said it.
Her words, as hurtful as they were, have made me realize I have had a great life, a fabulous journey, with some obvious bumps in the road.
But, don’t we all.
Because, that is, after all, LIFE as we know it. The good, the fabulous, the incredible — and a few lumps along the way.
So maybe I belong in a club of people who don’t have any other choice but to have surgery, and to deal with the genetic cells and cards they were dealt.
But that reminds me of another country club I belong to — the one where you fall in love with a boy, he holds your hand through cancer treatments at age seventeen and then he finds you again twenty years later only to hold your hand again — and carve pink hearts out of chalk on your front doorstep.
And, that’s a pretty brave thing to do.
LOVEMORE. Fearless. For sure.