Sunday, June 19, 2011

Two year anniversary

All of a sudden, as I sat in bed reading, my wife of two-and-a-half weeks jumped up and gasped. "What day is it?" I lowered a guidebook to the Big Island of Hawaii to my lap. "The 18th, why?" Her eyes were alive with excitement. "When is the anniversary of your surgery?" It slowly dawned on me. "The 17th." And as our hearts collectively jumped into our throats, maniacal grins tore across our faces. "We were zip-lining through the rainforest!"

From a honeymoon suite on the northern coast of Hawaii, with soft air carrying the sound of the waves and the scent of countless night-blossoming flowers through the windows, it requires a major effort to conjure up the memory of what this day felt like just two years ago.

I was in a grey twilight of consciousness. My pain was uncontrolled, and would not be for three more weeks. My lungs were beginning to incubate a hospital-acquired pneumonia. The gash down the center of my abdomen was being held together by staples, but an infection was brewing just under the surface.

I was full of morphine and antibiotics and hope. Hope that the surgeons really had gotten it all, and that I and all of my family and friends were finally coming to the end of a three-plus year saga. Hope that whatever the surgeons had done had not left me permanently incapacitated. Hope that my dream of leading a normal life of normal trials and tribulations was not a fantasy. I am not sure that I had the imagination to hope that at some point, my illness would not be the central defining aspect of my personality.

I am stunned when I think about how amazing my life is right now. I have been cancer-free for two years, and remarkably healthy in all other respects. The neuropathy in my feet has essentially resolved, and even my hearing is significantly improved. I am about to start my final year of medical school (only three years behind schedule). I know what I want to do professionally, and am proud of the progress I have already made. And I am married to a person more lovely than I ever knew existed.

These days, I find myself appreciating the moment, and planning for the future. I spend very little time reopening wounds of the past. I've got far too much life ahead of me for that.

In case you missed it, below is a link to our wedding announcement in the New York Times: