I recently went on vacation with my two sons. Matthew was in California at a conference and Ethan and I flew out to pick him up and do some sightseeing. We did all of the touristy San Francisco attractions including driving down Lombard street, going to Alcatraz and going across the Golden Gate Bridge. I have only gone over it in a car. Since I was there last it seems that it has gotten popular to ride bikes over the bridge. It was a great way to see the incredible views. As we started to go over I thought to myself that this defines what my friend Kim says we should do. We were being participators in life. Not spectators. We were right in the middle of the action, not observing from afar.
Shortly before I got to the bridge I had a thought that I hadn’t thought about cancer. Even though I no longer have cancer it’s on my mind often. Not in a way that I am worrying but in a way that it’s always just there. I was talking with a friend and explained that for me, being a survivor is like wearing a backpack. You know it’s there, it can be a little heavier at times, but it’s always with you wherever you go. You don’t notice that it’s not there until you look for it. Similar to a “wait, where did I put my keys?” feeling.
While I was on vacation with my boys I didn’t have my backpack with me. I’m not sure where I left it, but it wasn’t with me and I didn’t notice that I wasn’t carrying it. I still don’t know where I left it. Was it at the hotel while I temporarily saw the sights or did I leave it at home before I got on the airplane? It’s rarely far from where I am so I’m certain I left it at the hotel or maybe even at the shop that we rented bikes. When I noticed I wasn’t carrying it, there wasn’t the panic that you get when you can’t find your keys or you purse. It was more a of a thought, realization of feeling a little lighter and then seeing what’s in front of me for the moment.
As I write this I wonder if those moments will become more frequent. Will the time between wearing my backpack become greater? I have a feeling it will. Between my second and third diagnoses it wasn't something I carried with me unless I was going to the doctor for a re-check. It may possibly stay with me longer this time because my third diagnosis was my most significant. Both in the sense that the survival rate was more of a concern than the past diagnoses and the treatment of my third diagnosis was the most challenging. The chemotherapy really took a toll on my body. I’m sure I carry the backpack as a burden that I might have to battle cancer again and undergo treatment. Whatever the reason, my backpack is with me. I look forward to the moments I notice that I have left it behind.