It’s that time of year for milestone celebrations. Last night was my son’s eighth grade commencement ceremony and Saturday we feted my niece and her new fiancé at their engagement party. I’ve known both my son and niece since they were infants. How did this happen, this passage of time which leads one of them to high school and the other to marriage?
I’ve certainly passed many of my own milestones. I’ve turned 18, then 20, 30, 40, 50. I’ve graduated from college and law school and gotten married. As a lawyer, I tried my first case and, now as an interior decorator, I’ve enjoyed creative firsts with my clients. I’ve learned I was pregnant and become a mother with the birth of my daughter. I sent that same child off to her first day of kindergarten, middle school and high school. I got to experience those firsts again with my son and in September I will be the mother of two children in high school.
Time brought me cancer milestones too. Like everyone else, I know exactly where I was and who was in the room when I heard the words, “You have cancer.” Those three words touched off weeks of anxious Googling of such words as DCIS, micro calcifications, atypical hyperplasia, breast cancer, mastectomy, lumpectomy, radiation, and reconstructive surgery. I researched things I ended up not needing to know (see lumpectomy and radiation). I researched things I would come to know much more intimately than any web page could teach me.
But time carried me through and pushed me out the other side. Like it or not, I traveled from that September with its first worrisome phone call, to February’s surgical biopsy, to April’s showdown surgery. I remember thinking more than once, in a definite effort to calm myself, that all I had to do was show up. If I could summon up the courage to walk into that hospital I would eventually walk out. Time would make sure of that.
Time is a relative concept, of course, and I relate to it as a child of a strict upbringing. I learned early on that it was only advancing years that brought me the freedoms for which I yearned. As such, I’ve always been okay with getting older. Having cancer didn’t change my perception of time, it reinforced it. It was that same passage of time which brought me through the worst of cancer. It was the simple, but overwhelming, task of getting up each morning and getting through each day that carried me to today. I am very grateful to be two years older, because I am very happy to be two years beyond hearing those three awful words.
As I watch the next generation grow up around me, I suppose the real trick is enjoying the passage of time while appreciating the present moment. Somehow I have to learn to live completely in each of these moments as they happen, carrying me along with them, as they move me through, up, over and beyond.
As James Taylor wrote, “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” It’s a simple sentiment, but I think he’s on to something.
Has getting cancer changed your perception of time and aging? I’d love to hear what you think.
Survival > Existence,