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The gift of uncertainty

I had some foreshadowing that my last scan at MSK might not be completely clean.

Not so much that I was expecting bad news, but enough that I wasn’t completely surprised to hear my oncologist explain that there was one small spot. Her words immediately brought to mind the small dark scab my Reiki healer told me she saw in my lower abdomen during a session the weekend prior.

It had worried me at the time; but I rationalized it away, telling myself that a scab is a sign of healing.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the visions I had experienced that same evening: a lovely pink/purple haze like a sunset, which my healer attributed to the work she did on a similarly colored chakra. The Jack-and-the-Beanstalk style vines that magically grew up and around me, which I somehow understood to be the growing support of a community versus some sort of botanical entrapment.

And the last image, which appeared most abruptly as I was picturing peaceful ripples on a lake—a dolphin suddenly breaking through the waves, jumping and performing, joy palpable in its spray.

What could it mean, we wondered as we circled through various theories? The dolphin didn’t immediately seem to hold any personal meaning for me. “Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces?” my healer suggested. But I suspected it didn’t feel any more right to her than it did to me. Finally, I resolved to stop trying to figure it out—the figuring being just one more way of trying to control what was uncontrollable. If it had meaning, I would come to know it…eventually.

But when my oncologist shared news of what looked like new activity, I wasn’t thinking about the dolphin, only the scab.

What’s the worst thing that could happen if you’re wrong? I had asked myself before the scan, deciding firmly to side with optimism.

Well, now I know.

Back at the hotel, I wept and howled like a crazy person; like an animal. “What does this mean??” I demanded of Per, knowing in my terror exactly what it meant. That this was over. That I was doomed. That I had been wrong, wrong, wrong. That I would have to resume treatment, that my days were numbered, that my story has finally jumped the shark. And that after all this, this was it.

“Let’s go to Hawaii,” he responded.

And the moment he said it, I knew that we would. In spite of the fact that they wanted me to start treatment immediately, in spite of it being the worst possible timing at work, in spite of all the reasons you put off one vacation and then another.

I do NOT want to be on my death bed wishing I had gone on a real honeymoon, I thought so aggressively I now wonder if I may have said it aloud. (When we married, Per and I had taken just three days to drive to a secluded wifi-free resort in upper Wisconsin, only to arrive to an upgraded suite just above the business center where we were squarely on the grid, fully accessible to texts and emails from clients and bosses until the Saturday we returned home.)

It took less than 10 minutes to confirm we could secure affordable tickets, system-wide upgrades, and rooms with points at hotel I had once loved on the Big Island—the one with the old soul. And we’d be fully-vaccinated before we stepped foot on the plane.

And just then, I thought back to that dolphin that appeared from nowhere, and laughed out loud.

The next day, I got the call with my MRI results. They thought there might be something there, but these results were also inconclusive. “I’d like you to come back and re-scan in four weeks,” my oncologist said.

I told her I would be there in five.

And I know now with certainty: we would not be going to Hawaii without that set of questionable scans.

People say that the curse of cancer is always knowing there is a possibility it will come back. Instead, I think this is its gift: it bequeaths the opportunity to live life with an awareness of death, which demands you live your life in a different, more deliberate way.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in my life right now, but of this I am certain: there is more love in my life today than there was before. I’ve opened myself up to receive it more freely and found ways to spread it more broadly. When I think about how I want to spend my time in my future, the voice in my head issues a simple brief: Room to Love.

My heart is full as we fly over the Pacific, approaching Hawaii. After making plans for our trip, we found out one of my closest friends would be there at the same time…then another, and another and another. And then the late night flash on my phone revealed one more! Five of the women I love most in the world will be there, two at one of our hotels, and I’ll see three I haven’t seen for years.

And one more person I love, who has waited for years to love me with a fully open and vulnerable heart, and for me to love him back with the entirety of my soul.

Happy Honeymoon, Per.

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