I remember being about 9 or 10 years old at Hy-Vee with my mom. She let me pick out whatever cereal I wanted. My mom was cool like that, she let me eat sugar cereal. I picked Golden Grahams. I noticed on the front of the box it said 1 in 20 boxes had a real wristwatch inside. A real, plastic, black, ugly wristwatch. I needed that watch.
My mom was so awesome that she actually let me shake every box of Golden Grahams that was on the shelf. (Now really, she was probably long gone in another part of the store and could care less, but I like to remember her being very cool about it.) I was convinced that I could feel the weight difference of the boxes and find that watch. I selected the box very carefully and we went home. My mom let me pour the whole box of cereal out into a giant white bowl. And guess what? I won. I found the special box with the watch. Which I probably kept for about a day and then promptly lost.
Fast forward to this summer when we took my 6-year-old daughter, Lucy, to see Iowa Public Television's star, Dan Wardell. He asked the audience to raise their hands to tell him what they would buy if they won the lottery. I watched Lucy. Her hand was high. Her bottom was barely able to stay in her seat. I could see it in her eyes. She knew he'd call her name. Well, he didn't. She cried. That's life. [Side note: Dan Wardell is the best! We love you, Dan. Be orange!]
For the record, my husband, Chris, doesn't think like me. He thinks he will probably not win. Ever. We discuss which is a better way to live. 1) Thinking you are lucky and sometimes being disappointed or 2) Thinking you are not lucky and sometimes being happily surprised. And maybe the answer is that it's good to have both perspectives in a family.
So, I called my oncologist late last week to find out the results from pathology. When they removed 95% of my breast tissue and two lymph nodes, they sent it all the lab to be checked for cancer. I received good news: They found a 3 cm mass of cancer that they removed from my left breast. They got really good margins. No other cancer was found, including my lymph nodes. It had not spread. No need for radiation. No need for chemo. I was lucky.
No one wants to have cancer at all. But somehow, I still feel like the luckiest person alive. I'm so lucky to live in a time when we can catch cancer at stage 0. There is a time not long ago when any cancer diagnosis was almost certain death. My mom's cancer killed her in a year and a half. I hopefully get to have a different story. And I hope I can help others with my story. Be your own advocate. If you are at high risk, get screened, even when it's not convenient or comfortable.
I learned recently that Lucy has been telling everyone that I had back surgery. I picked her up from the bus stop yesterday. The bus driver yelled, "How are you doing? Lucy told me you had back surgery." I smiled and said I was doing well. I asked Lucy why she was telling people that I had back surgery. She said, "Well, it's easier than telling them about the front." We'll, I'll give you that, Lucy. I love that she makes me laugh. And so does Chris and Jude.
In August, Tig Notaro got up on stage in Los Angeles and did 30 minutes of stand-up that was instantly elevated to legendary status for two reasons. The first was because of the context, as Notaro delivered the show shortly after getting diagnosed with breast cancer (which followed pneumonia, a debilitating intestinal infection, the death of her mother, and a bad break-up). The second was because Louis C.K., who was also on the bill that evening, tweeted the following: "In 27 years doing this, I've seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo."
You can hear a 2-minute segment of the set here (warning, it does have some swear words and adult content), but her message is worth it.
My poem for the week:
Not in Vegas
But when it counts