four years in a construction zone

This month Zoe turns eight. Her birthday will also mark the fourth anniversary of living with metastatic breast cancer for me.

Shortly after the diagnosis came, Mark and I met with Dr. Campbell who told us unequivocally, “We’re not going for five years, we’re going for fifty.”

For some reason, we still thought it wise to get a second opinion. In search of such, we went to Wisconsin and met with a well-regarded oncologist there. In our short visit with him, he managed to encourage me to make a living will and advanced directive. He advised me to begin scrap-booking with my daughter since she would likely not remember me. While confirming that our first line of treatment is what he would do too, he added “that might work for a few months.” (it worked for almost 2 years) He then gave us what he deemed an encouraging anecdote about a patient who had beaten the odds and celebrated 4 years of survival with metastatic disease. Four years?!

I shudder to think of what Mark and I looked like walking out of that office.

We left for home shortly thereafter. Our return trip took us through Chicago where we managed to get in the exact wrong lane of traffic in a construction zone. While we were at a standstill, traffic zoomed by on the other side of the pylons. During the hours we withstood of this, I remember Mark turning to me at one point and saying, “How can this not feel like a metaphor for our lives?”

There have been points over the last four years when this has indeed felt like a metaphor for our lives. All the things I wish I could do, the normal life stuff, the volunteering at my kid’s school, the church committees, the community college art classes, etc. etc. fly by my proverbial van window at breakneck speed while I convalesce in bed.

But far more often than not, I feel as though I’ve been able to join that speeding traffic. The important stuff, the parent-teacher conferences, the dinners with friends, the hugs from my nieces and nephews, the weddings, the Children in Worship with Zoe, the family vacations, etc, etc. All these things have slowed enough for me to jump on and join in. These four years have both dragged and sped in the irony of longing for the years to pass and for time with my girl while she’s a girl.

Four years. Four years. Four years. No living will. No advanced directive. No scrapbook.

Just days gathered up like daisies. And me with an overwhelming bouquet.