So I’ve just returned from a college reunion. Or rather, a college-within-a-college reunion. Many, many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away––in western Massachusetts––the University of Massachusetts set up something called Project 10 and I signed up for it. Naturally, it changed the course of my life, as these things do. It changed the course of many lives, and there have been a few reunions in the past, though none I was ever able to attend until now.
The brilliant and beautiful K, my roommate from that time, suggested that, if my health permitted, we road-trip from her place in Virginia. My health did (and does) permit even if I am not yet up to a lot of heavy lifting or long distance walking, and this sounded good to me. Besides, she works as a public defender so if it all went pear-shaped, I figured I was in good hands. And the timing was good––it was something like two months since my final round of chemo, with no recurrence of anaemia.
The seven-or-so-hour drive north was really pleasant, not at all gruelling. Of course, I wasn’t driving. K managed to miss that portion of my life during which I had a driver’s license. But lawyers and writers are people used to doing things for seven straight hours or longer. Plus as old hippies, we embody Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The pleasures of a long car ride can’t be over-estimated. K and I once drove all over the Massachusetts coast looking for a beach that met our exacting standards. We followed signs to a place called Sippiewissit and discovered to our amusement that it was not a Lake Winnipesaukee kind of place but a trailer park. Didn’t matter––the journey was the destination. (The drive back took almost twelve hours, with lousy weather and long delays due to construction.)
The reunion was a fascinating experience. We watched the famous 1971 Mayday in Washington DC video, which I had seen only parts of. I was there and got my head split open when a cop whacked me with a billyclub, although I failed to get arrested. This still rates as the scariest experience of my life. Yeah, scarier than cancer. Maybe I’ll talk about why in another entry.
I didn’t overdo. I couldn’t have if I’d wanted to––I don’t have enough energy. But I did push myself; it was time. At some point in physical recovery, you have to do that. Exactly when is hard to say because everybody is different and one size does not fit all. But you start by pushing a little bit, and after a while, a little more, until eventually, you have periods when you’re functioning at a pre-illness level or close to it.
How you can tell it’s time to push yourself hard to say. It’s all in how you feel, physically, psychologically, emotionally, or all of the above. I felt physically ready. Then I looked in the mirror and saw that my eyebrows were coming back. By the end of the trip, they were almost all filled in again.
My head hair has gone from fuzz to real hair, and it’s not all white. There’s a fair amount of brown. I’ve heard it may come in curly at first. Some of the longer sections look like they might be coming in that way but really, it’s still too short to tell. Nonetheless, I can feel that it’s a little bit thicker all the time and even my husband, who sees me all the time, says he can tell the difference from day to day. Hair growth is a sign of life.
Last December, my oncologist told me I might have about two years, which leaves me with a little less than a year and a half of her original estimate. That means every day after the end of December 2016 will be a gift.
I’ve decided I can recover from cancer, even if I can’t be cured.