An old newspaper clipping of a drawing of Wonder Woman sits on my desk propped up next to my calendar. Usually around the first Friday of every month, I take it off my desk and pin it into my daily planner so that the little image covers the entire day's blank space. The blank spaces on those Fridays in my planner probably say quite a bit more about me than all the notes scribbled in the margins and days around them. Each month I put my little cut out of Wonder Woman over that blank space in order to give me some sort of symbol of strength and courage for what I know I'm going to have to go do soon. You see, the first Friday of the month is usually a chemo day, and a year and a half into this, I still get scared.
Somewhere along the line I got the impression this would get easier, especially when they call it something harmless sounding like "maintenance therapy." And yet, every Thursday night beforehand, I'm a nervous wreck. I start to think about the uncomfortably high relapse rate for my form of cancer. I grieve the recent loss of three young friends from this same cancer all over again. I start to think about all the truly terrifying treatments I've undergone thus far, and how they don't hold a candle to what would have to come next if I did relapse. I think about how I'm not sure if I can do this again... if I can go through another procedure and injection tomorrow... if I can get through another cancer diagnosis in the future...
So I plan obsessively for everything as much as I can. Whatever I actually can predict or control in my life, I try to make the most of it (perhaps even too much of it at times). My daily planner is brimming over with notes and reminders and even plans to make plans... but then, that unseemly blank space on those first Fridays snaps me out of my agenda frenzy and suddenly I feel very small and powerless.
I feel so weak and helpless when I think about the near-lethal chemicals that will soon invade my bloodstream. I feel powerless over what's going on inside my bones in my marrow, where the cancer cells originated. Are the cancer cells truly gone, or just hiding out in wait for another chance to shatter my life again? Ultimately, it's the emptiness that really hits me, though... that blank space on my calendar that could possibly mark the day I relapse. It's the emptiness I feel when I think about my future and just see one big blank space on my mental calendar, too.
No, it definitely doesn't get any easier or less scary at all... not even a little bit.
I don't know what the future looks like for me at all, on Friday or in five years. But somehow, I have to find a way to get through it and get done what needs to be done. So even though it's probably silly, I pin that Wonder Woman picture into the blank space on my planner as a source of inspiration for myself. It reminds me of what I need to be for myself on those blank days when all I see and feel is emptiness. Instead of feeling empty, I will choose to be strong, I will have courage, and I will not let fear determine how I live my life.
I will defend the truth of this moment to myself when the lies of fear become easier for me to believe. And the glorious yet weighty truth of this moment is...
I am here.
I am alive.
And I am not finished yet.