I really hate August. I suppose that I shouldn't because good things and bad things have both happened in my life in August, but this year, it was the bad again. I was spending some quality time with my parents in the sunny south when the call came. "Margaret T. died this morning. I don't want to tell you what to do," My mother in law began, "But I think that you should come back for the funeral." It was Saturday, August 15th.
A day earlier my mother had just said, "Congratulations, you made it through the day." I was relieved that nothing disturbing had happened on August 14th, the two year anniversary of my diagnosis with malignant breast cancer. Just four days earlier, I had made the same comment to my mother, on the forty eighth anniversary of her mother, Margaret M's death from breast cancer. We were finally through our bad days of the year and I was just settling in to the slow pace of southern life and really starting to relax. Well, cancer just doesn't let you relax. It just keeps rearing it's ugly head. I would need to pack my children into the car sooner rather than later and turn around and head back north. I was numb and in shock.
Margaret T was the sister of one of my very close friends. She had breast cancer for thirteen years on and off. When she was diagnosed she had a bilateral mastectomy and then took Tamoxifen for five years. Six months after getting off of the Tamoxifen, she had a recurrence. Since that time, she battled quietly and bravely with her cancer and kept it pretty much a private matter. Now it was over, one day after I was celebrating being at the two year mark of being cancer free. I guess that is what cancer does, it reminds you that you have to live in the present and make the most of each day. You never know when this disease will catch you again. Margaret T thought that she had it beat the first time and she almost did, but as we know, almost doesn't count.
The funeral was packed with family and friends. I was sad and yet I felt rather disconnected. Perhaps it is because I never saw Margaret T when she was very ill. The last time I saw her she was doing well with the meds she was on and was in a clinical trial at Memorial Sloane Kettering. I just didn't want to think that it was really over for her. She fought so hard and stoically over the years that it is still hard for me to believe that the cancer got her. As I watched her two teenage children walk from the church I thought of how it should have ended. We should have been saying, "She won! She is cured!" She should have lived to see her son finish college and her daughter marry.
Unfortunately, that is not how her story ended. So as August comes to an end, I think about all of the life changing events that have happened in this month in my family. My grandmother died, my parents were married, my son was conceived, I was diagnosed with cancer and my brother was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Each year, I take time to reflect. I am thankful for my blessings and my current health, I am thankful for my children and my husband, I am thankful for the warm days and the laziness of summer. But deep down, after all the reflecting is finished, I just want to get through it and move on.