Sorry for the wait on this post. I got a little tired and lazy these last few days but I’m ready to write about it now.
In my last post, I wrote about the amazingly wonderful, joyous, memorable day I had celebrating my last chemo with my family and cancer team at NYU. It truly was the celebration I had been imagining for months and months. Thank you to all that made it happen! But what happened next was so extraordinary, so special and humbling, I never could have predicted the impact it would have on me.
If you look at my pictures from my last chemo day, you’ll see that I made a poster that read, “My Last Chemo! Take a Picture With Me!” I didn’t make it for the hospital. I made it to take to the streets of NYC. I was going to hold up the sign in front of the NYU Cancer Center but, like always, it took forever to get my chemo from the lab and I ended up leaving the hospital just in time for my special lunch reservation with Ken. So instead of bringing out the sign in front of the cancer center, I stood outside the train station in Union Square Park to see what would happen.
At first I stood there. People stared, not sure what to make of this girl holding up a sign that read, “My Last Chemo.” I got a lot of those, “is this for real?” skeptical NYC looks. Ken said to me, “Don’t be upset if no one comes up to you. This is NY.” But I knew if I waited and looked extra friendly, something would happen. Because, this is NY!
Soon people started to walk by and clap, congratulating me on my success. I beamed! And then, this happened.
Then this happened.
Then there was a lull between people wanting to be photographed. But then I saw a girl charging me with her arms wide open. She embraced me, so genuinely happy for me. She told me that a few weeks ago she lost a good friend to cancer but she was so happy that I was doing well. You could see that she was hurting but I felt like being there gave her renewed hope. I took a picture with her and then she asked if she could have a picture with her phone to share with her friends. I obliged.
Another woman came up to me after this but didn’t want to take a picture with me. Her sister is undergoing chemo for breast cancer and she wanted to let me know. I asked how her sister was doing. She took a breath in as if to say, “it’s really tough.” She didn’t want to talk to much about it but just wanted to let me know what was happening. I wished her and her sister well, hoping that she gets better soon. She left, maybe a little sadder than the moment before. So was I. Then this happened.
Then the traffic started to slow down so we decided to walk and find a new spot to stand. As we were walking, we came upon an art installation made up of a bunch of felt pigeons that looked real! It was so cool. As we stopped to admire (I still had my poster out) the woman next to me turned and said, “You just finished chemo?” “Yes.” “My sister starts chemo tomorrow. I don’t know how to help her. What can I do?” Her sister also has breast cancer and two children. I told her what helped me; meals, house cleaning, laundry service, babysitting. She listened. She was upset and scared for her sister but really wants to help but I think feels left out. It’s hard to let people in. I understand what her sister must be going through. I wished her well, hoping I helped just a little.
Ken and I found a new spot where we were cheered and congratulated more. But we also got a lot more crazy stares. Both made me smile even more.
One man came up to me and asked, “Last chemo? What does that mean?” I explained that I just had my last chemotherapy session. “Really? Are you serious? That’s awesome! My dad went through chemo and he’s doing really well now! He even stopped smoking!” Then he gave a kiss on each cheek and gifted me with a half pint of blackberries that he had just bought for himself. How sweet is that?
Then this guy came over and was like, “This is awesome!” I love this picture and his face.
I wish I could have stayed out there all day. This experiment impacted me in ways that I didn’t expect. When you get cancer there’s a lot of “me” and “I” going around. “This is happening to me.” “I am getting chemotherapy.” “This is my pain.” But what I realized on a deeper level than ever before is that cancer isn’t just happening to me. Cancer impacts us all. It isn’t just my story. It’s our story.
It is our story.