If I had the choice, I would have cancer all over again.
That might seem completely ridiculous to you, but honestly it’s true.
Because I am working on this blog and my book, I’ve been forced to reflect on the last couple of years of my life and pull out memories — some bad, some good. I’ve been thinking of all the people I’ve met and grown close to because of this crappy disease, thinking of how much more I am enjoying life than I used to. Cancer also taught me a lot about myself–what I truly want to do in life, where I want my life to go. Right before I was diagnosed, I was in a classic RUT. I was so tired of being a spectator in life, a Facebook junkie, that would peruse other people’s lives and wonder why mine wasn’t fulfilling. I would see what other people were accomplishing, whether it was running a 5k, or landing a great new job. I wanted MY thing that made ME interesting. But I just couldn’t figure out how or what I truly wanted. And how to get there.
I have a great husband and family. I adore my kids more than anything in this world. I have a decent career and we live a comfortable life. But I still felt something was missing. I’ve always wanted to write a book, and a blog, but just wasn’t feeling the story. All the soul searching I was doing wasn’t getting me anywhere. Then BAM. Cancer came and while it was living hell, it changed so much in my life. For the better. As I sit here writing and writing and writing, I know that had to happen for this to happen.
Now, I want to make sure I note that while I’m happy about where my life is headed and a lot of it is because I went through a health crisis, I do not want that nasty C thing back ever again. And I don’t plan on it coming back. I despise the word cancer and what it has taken from so many people I care about. I hate the PTSD that I have to endure on a regular basis. Yes, cancer survivors have PTSD. And it sucks.
When I found out I had “nasty C thing”, I sat in bed and searched frantically for blogs, sites, anything I could read that would help. I stumbled across breastcancer.org and saw that there were chat boards where you could discuss things with other women in your situation. This was new territory for me, reaching out to complete strangers, but I needed to talk to someone that actually knew what I was feeling, not someone giving me advice or trying to comfort me with words that actually made things worse. Like the one time someone at work said, “My cousin had breast cancer. She died. But that was because she waited too long to get it checked out and she was advanced. But you-you caught it early!” (Yes, someone did actually say this to me, believe it or not. But I know she meant well…)
One day on the breast cancer site, someone posted that she was brand new to the site and starting chemo in March. Perfect, because that was going to be me too. Brand new to this hell ride with the chemo exit fast approaching, I started chatting with her. One by one our chemo group started to grow and it was becoming more difficult to keep up with the posts, so someone suggested we branch off to a private group in Facebook. And we’ve been friends ever since. From across the globe as far as New Zealand, and all over the US, women connecting and helping each other. We were talking each other off ledges, giving each other advice, listening. Only knowing each other through the world wide web, through typed messages and emoticons, we were still building a special bond just the same. As of today, some of us have met, but many of us have not. But I feel like I’ve known these women forever. I would have never had honor of meeting them, had I not had cancer.
We were doing this little thing in our group where we featured one person for a week, and that person would answer a questionnaire and share photos etc. It was a way for us to get to know more about each other on a personal level, vs only talking about “nasty c” This was so cool, because it truly showed how different we all were. One girl– an avid motorcyclist, one an environmentalist. There was a new mom who was pregnant while going through chemo. A world traveler. Some of these women had such amazing and interesting stories, that when I posted mine, I felt that it was a little, well, boring. Of course I mentioned my love for Duran Duran in my post, I had to. Tina reached out to me immediately when she realized we shared this love in common.
I met Tina about a year after we started chatting in the group. She was visiting San Antonio, so we went to lunch. I had only talked with her online at this point, but it was like lunching with an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in ages. I now understood how people could online date and fall for someone without meeting face to face! She was so much like me and I knew if she could ever meet my other friends they would click too. I knew this was more than a support group member, this was a lifetime friend. After meeting in person, Tina and I would talk a lot on the phone when either of us was having a bad day, or a PTSD moment, or just needed to vent. She had also been a recruiter, like me, so when I was having job issues she was the ear I needed, and she kept me sane.
We always said if Duran Duran went on tour we would meet up again and see them. At first, there were hardly any tour dates, so the likelihood of going was slim. But then we got word that they were adding dates for North America, we immediately got on the phone and started the planning. We decided Vegas was a good choice. Austin was near me of course, but it was too close to one of my major surgery dates and I could NOT risk not feeling well enough to go, so that was out. And Vegas was my birthday weekend, another bonus. It just was meant to be. I immediately called my best friend and “sister” Paula who has been with me through thick and thin and a Duranie since the 80s and pitched the idea to her. I thought how amazing it would be for her to meet Tina and have this weekend with such special friends. She was in. She was in need of a girls weekend like I was, so it didn’t take much convincing. And remember, she was not able to go to the 2005 concert because her dad passed away, so this would finally be our night to shine.
This trip was planned in January and I could hardly stand the anticipation for the months leading up to it. I searched high and low online for the right shirt we could all wear and I found it, “Duran Crazy” it said with John’s picture splashed on the front. Perfect, I thought as I placed 3 in my Amazon Prime cart. We all had to match after all!
This trip meant so many things to me.
A long awaited weekend getaway with an old and dear friend, my Bestie. We had done mini weekends in Florida before, but this was different. We were going somewhere away from kids and obligations. And it was a long time coming. We needed this time to reconnect, to bond.
It meant a reunion with Tina, who I considered a dear friend but had only met in person once, just for that lunch. Only this time it wouldn’t be a 2 hour conversation about our cancer experiences it would be FUN.
It meant a reunion with another member of our support group, who just happened to be in Vegas at a conference at the time, someone that Tina hadn’t met in person before.
It meant a trip down memory lane–Paula and I were going to see an old high school friend from the good old days, simpler days when life’s biggest challenge was picking which bar you would go to–would you stay in town and go to Joe’s and sing Wham at karaoke, or would you venture out to Albany where the bars were a bit cooler and people more interesting? Kent was a blast and I knew we would have lots of laughs again. And we’d meet his wife, also a Duranie!
This trip meant a new beginning.
When I got off the plane and waited for my luggage, I heard the loud dance music playing, signaling I wasn’t just anywhere, but in VEGAS. Right there as I watched the bags going round and round the carousel, I got emotional. I was excited to see Paula and get the weekend started, I was excited to see Tina and introduce them, and I was excited to see my boys. I had to fight the urge to bawl as I pulled my bag off the belt.
Tina had brought her cousin Samantha and all of us immediately clicked. It was like we were all old friends that hadn’t seen each other in a long time. As we clinked our champagne glasses and toasted the weekend, I forgot all about cancer. ALL ABOUT IT.
When we got to the Mandalay Bay, we were all beside ourselves. All decked out in our shirts, buzzed on drinks and high on seeing Duran, we were having the time of our lives. The opening act was incredible, Chic put on one hell of a dance party. The songs “We are Family” and “Good Times” pretty much summed up the weekend. And Nile Rodgers talked about his cancer diagnosis and how he was told to get his affairs in order. But he survived and has been cancer free for 5 years. Filled with emotion I screamed out in support. F U cancer!
When the lights went down signaling that Duran Duran was about to start, I was still out in the lobby area coming back from the restroom. I went into full on panic mode. I couldn’t miss the opening song! I frantically pulled my ticket from my purse, and ran to the first entry point I saw, not even checking to see if it was my section. Nope. “Your section is down that way,” the attendant said pointing down yonder. He could see how distressed I was, so he let me in and I ran at top speed to get to my seat. JUST IN TIME. The thunder and lightning effects started and the lights finally came on to reveal DURAN DURAN.
I sang at the top of my lungs. I screamed. I cried when they played Ordinary World, Come Undone and Save a Prayer. So many emotions and feelings came over me at that show and it was the most amazing feeling. I was saying goodbye to the past and “nasty C” and hello to my new life. I was reliving some of the good times of my past through songs like The Reflex, and creating new memories and letting go with new ones like Pressure Off. This was my movie soundtrack.
I’m not gonna sleep tonight
Till the morning fills the sky
No one’s getting left behind
This is our time
This is our time!
We’re gonna live this night, yeah
Live it like it’s our last night
Last Night in the City, Duran Duran Paper Gods