Normally, the number thirteen is a lucky one for us. Our son was born in the thirteenth hour of the thirteenth day of March, in the thirteenth year of our marriage.
I'm really not very superstitious, but the number twelve has become less desirable to me. I had brain surgery and learned that the tumor was cancer last December 12 (12/12), and I learned of my tumor recurrence on October 12.
Last year, on November 12 (a happy twelve), our family went to Six Flags. Mary Kay (world's best employer and best-selling cosmetic line - buy their stuff!!!) has an annual company picnic on the second Saturday in November, and they rent the Six Flags amusement park in Arlington. It's always been fun, because despite a lifelong fear of heights, I loved riding rollercoasters and would always head for the big, scary ones. I didn't know that last year would be my last ride on a rollercoaster. (A real one, at least -- I still get to ride the figurative rollercoaster of life.)
It was the next day - Sunday morning, the thirteenth of November - when I had my first known seizure. (Okay, so there was an unlucky thirteen for me.) I was getting my daughter dressed for church, when I suddenly had a deja vu feeling followed by a really sick feeling, like I was going to faint. As I sat down to compose myself, I started smelling a really weird smell. In the past, I would awaken as though I had been having a nightmare -- adrenaline rushing, sick feeling -- except I wouldn't remember a nightmare; only that same strange smell that would waken me. I had no idea what all this was, and yet I remember an ominous feeling haunting me that day. I tried to brush it off as no big deal, but I remember feeling very emotional, especially when singing with the Primary children at church: "Faith is knowing I lived in heaven before my mortal birth/Faith is knowing I can return when my life ends on earth..." But thankfully, as this story unfolded I was flooded with peace and I have been able to lean on the rest of that verse: "...Faith is trust in God above; in Christ who shows the way/Faith is strengthened; I feel it grow, whenever I obey."
It was more than a week after that seizure that I learned it was indeed a seizure caused by a brain tumor, and I started this blog. I knew it was a serious situation, but I had no idea that my life was in such danger. It was a month later before I knew I had a cancer that claims many lives within the first year after diagnosis.
This past weekend was Six Flags Saturday again. We started the day under the Saturday Morning Lights, watching my son's last football game of the season and taking him for his team photo, before heading to the park. My days of riding rollercoasters are over; I have a hole in my brain now, and I am too vulnerable to bleeding, so I'm under doctor's orders to stay off. But I still enjoyed the day, especially now that my son is finally over 42 inches tall and can now go on more rides himself. It was a thrill to watch him having so much fun. We were able to ride the carousel together, and he took me "driving" in an antique car (which appeared safe until we had to stop and the people behind us slammed into our rear at high speed - ow). The rest of the time I got to wave and take pictures and absorb the joy from this five-year-old blur whizzing past me on the exciting kiddie rides.
Even so, I couldn't help but remember that "last day", last year, before my life changed. And as I dressed my daughter for church yesterday morning, I couldn't help being haunted by the real-life deja-vu, and I wondered if I was going to have another seizure. I didn't, but yesterday was the first day I really started feeling like a chemotherapy patient. I fell into bed shortly after getting home. My husband took over choir practice for me that afternoon so I could get more rest. I would try to sleep, only to be awakened with rushes of adrenaline that would make me panic and wonder if a seizure was coming on. I would remind myself that I'm taking a super-high dose of a really effective seizure medication so there was no reason to worry about it.
This morning -- the thirteenth, and the actual anniversary of "seizing the day", I got up out of bed and was rocked with nausea as soon as I stood up. It's a little better now, but I still feel pretty lousy and tired. I am grateful for the words of a cancer survivor who spoke at Relay For Life, who acknowledged that it is hard to feel hope when you don't feel well. It was helpful to remember that and guard against feelings of discouragement. I also remember the words of Lance Armstrong, who said that the better he got, the worse he felt. And finally, I remember my husband giving a talk in church on Sunday, which included reminders to trust in the Lord instead of the arm of flesh. There is great peace in knowing what to believe in.
And after all, here I am: one year after symptoms presented themselves, and less than a month away from the anniversary of my diagnosis. As lousy as I feel today, I still don't feel anything like someone who is fast approaching their expiration date. My lab results were good, so the chemo hasn't destroyed anything good yet (hopefully it's too busy destroying cancer cells). I'm still a brain tumor savant; just a really tired and queasy one.