When I go on vacation, I take thousands of pictures. I can’t help it. I love looking at the world through the camera and I’m afraid that if I don’t document every moment, I will forget it. This drives my husband crazy. He just wants to keep moving and exploring. I want to take a picture of that beautiful flower bud with the river in the distance. We differ in that way. But always…always…when push comes to shove, we have amazing memories to look back on. Inevitably, when we look back, we come across a picture and we realize that it shows a moment that we had forgotten. A moment that, without that picture, might be lost forever.
The other night I was looking at our first and last vacation as a family, just Ken, Oliver and I. We went to Oregon. I had always wanted to visit the Pacific Northwest and we decided that this would be the perfect first trip to take with a toddler. There’d be lots to see and do, great food to eat, wine tasting, hiking, culture, ocean…everything. And this vacation delivered. It was June of 2014. Oliver was 18 months old. It fell on our 6th anniversary. But after it ended, one week later is when I found my lump and our lives changed forever.
I haven’t looked at these pictures in a very long time. It feels like a lie. A fraud. Looking at our smiling faces…we were ignorant of what was coming. Of what was already growing inside of me. I look at those pictures and I know what in the next chapter.
I see those pictures and I’m scared for the people in them, as if it wasn’t me or my family. They are another family. It’s going to happen to someone else. I cry for them because they don’t know what’s about to hit them.
I think about my cancer then…laughing…mocking me…like a thief hiding in your closet only to come out when you’re not looking to take everything that’s precious to you and turn your home upside down. Cancer stole so much from us. It turned our lives upside down. But when I look at those pictures, all I see are those unknowing, unsuspecting people. And I just want to scream at them to beware of what’s lurking.
I now think about my life consisting of two parts; before breast cancer (BBC) and after breast cancer (ABC). I often look back to the time before breast cancer and long for what I had. It wasn’t perfect. Is anything ever perfect? But we were happy. We were traveling, which was a goal of mine for Oliver. I was satisfied with my career and beginning to think of the next steps. I started thinking about the possibility of having another child even though I had said, “one and done.” My life was developing and moving forward. These pictures remind me of that. It breaks my heart.
After breast cancer is much different. I have trouble seeing the future in the way I used to. I don’t know what my life is supposed to look like now. I don’t know what I want to do or where I want to go. What are my goals? What are the next steps in my life? It’s like cancer is the glue that sticks me to this past year and half and won’t let me move forward. And these photos, however beautiful, however memorable, remind me of that.