“Now, I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment, and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”
Gilda Radner’s quotation has always resonated with me. This weekend at the OMG Stupid Cancer Summit in Las Vegas, “delicious ambiguity” became somewhat of a refrain.
I have been quite fortunate in my seventeen years post chemo. While I certainly did have to embrace a new normal, over time, I have assimilated into a daily grind that, from the outset, looks no different than that of my colleagues and friends. For many years, cancer was just a speck in my rear view mirror – to borrow road trip lingo – it was a major pothole several miles back that rocked me, but hasn’t seemed to affect my horizon. Yet, in the past year, the structural damage from that stupid pothole way back has started to surface. All at once, I feel like I am 28 going on 82, and the idea that my body is giving up on me now has been rather depressing. On one hand, I guess I should be thrilled I got 17 great years out of this body; on the other hand, I’m only 28, and I am not ready to be seeking advice from my grandma and her friends on hearing aids, pacemakers, and cataracts.
While Las Vegas as a city left a bad taste in my mouth (seriously, even the tap water in our room tasted and smelled like an ashtray), OMG and Stupid Cancer did deliver on the promise of enabling me to network with people who just “get it”. It was good to be reminded that I don’t ‘t have to be in treatment or right out of treatment in order to appreciate just how supportive the adolescent/young adult community can be. I spent the weekend with new friends, who gave me great advice on their own experiences coping with octogenarian health issues in their twenties and thirties. Moreover, we had a fantastic time dining, drinking, and reminiscing together.
For me, the best part of OMG was not the cars, the iPads, or the fancy nightclubs. The best parts for me had absolutely nothing to do with Las Vegas and could just have easily have taken place in the red rocks of Sedona or the hilly streets of San Francisco. The connections I made and friendships I built in the off hours between sessions were rejuvenating and empowering. I came out of this weekend encouraged: I can do this. I can deal with this round of crazy bodily repairs and anything else that might be thrown at me. Life after cancer is about having to change; even the new normals we discover for ourselves are ultimately ephemeral. Life after cancer is about taking the moment and making the best of it, recognizing that tomorrow may bring something completely different.