I’m not especially good at remembering dates anymore. Some of my cancer dates I remember, some I don’t. I have no idea when I began chemo other than sometime in November 2010, but I know my last chemo infusion was April 8, 2011, and that my last Herceptin infusion was Jan 13, 2012 (a Friday the 13th, whoooo). I was elated to be finished with radiation, but I will never remember the date of my last one, although I know it was an incredibly hot Friday, the final week of July, so hot that I did not mind walking dogs in the pouring rain late at night because I was so hot and sweaty I just wanted to take a shower. An outside rain shower was totally ok.
This means any Friday the 13th is lucky for me, not unlucky. And any incredibly hot day, I will link it with a cancer memory. Curse you climate change…all these damn hotter days!
The weirdest memory however, will be related to my lumpectomy: April 29, 2011, the day Prince William married Kate. I am not fond of the Royals, and the wedding was not of interest to me, but I was forced to watch it, getting up so early for surgery—it was the ONLY thing on. That day was one of the worst of my life, and the laugh I got out of Princess Beatrice’s hat did not alleviate it all.
That day, my surgery was scheduled for 10:30 am, and I had not eaten for over 24 hours, and of course I was required to be at the hospital at 7 am—classic cancer hurry up and wait. A couple of emergency surgeries pushed my time back to 3:30 pm (apparently my surgeon is the only one who could do it? I cannot fuss, she is good and if I had an emergency I’d want her). I am not the most pleasant person when hungry. Not that it mattered much, because the surgical nursing staff pretty much ignored me. There were two magazines to read, nothing to do but worry, and all the fluids given to me via IV to keep me hydrated made me need to pee, which is quite a job when prepped for surgery with a million tubes attached to limbs. If that were not enough, it was discovered the person who did my ultra-sound-guided biopsy for my initial diagnoses failed to put a “marker” near the tumor. Since chemo worked so well, there was no definable tumor left, making it doubly difficult for the surgeon to figure out exactly where to operate. So I was stuck getting repeated mammograms to make sure there really was no marker in there. What fun. And then of course came the six needles in the nipple to put the dye in my system. It was the single most painful thing yet—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
It is now odd how much I am forced to remember the days of and following my surgery. For example, Princess Kate’s recent pregnancy that got all of the internet and news outlets in a tizzy for several days this summer sent me down memory lane. My first reaction was, they have only been married a few months…and then I realized it was over a year…same amount of time since I’d had surgery. Time flies when you’re having cancer.
But the single strangest reminder came a few days ago, watching Zero Dark Thirty with my mom. The film puts important dates on the screen, including the day the SEALS killed Bin Laden, May 1, 2011. Mom turns to me and says “do you remember all this happening?” *Note: Let me explain my mother is not interested at all in history or current events, or even pop culture current dramas.
Well, yeah I remember the news of Bin Laden’s death! It was an important enough event that even though I was drugged, in pain, and annoyed at the stupid drains under my arm, I was very aware of what happened. In fact, I kept trying to watch the news in the days that followed, but I do not do well with anesthetic, so the crawl on the bottom of the TV screen made me sea sick. I feel like I got cheated of this American moment because I was too sick to see it on TV. When I say all this to my mom to put the event in context for her, she gets huffy and says she does not remember because she was supposedly taking care of me (I actually needed little help at that point, whatever, ha ha).
I honestly don’t know if this way of remembering is good or bad. On one hand, something like a triumphant moment in history is linked with a very bad memory for me. But with chemo brain stealing my ability to remember things, maybe having these shortcuts to my memory is a good thing. Who knows.