Reflections, A Year Later
From: Ibby Caputo
Date: Aug. 25, 2008 5:40 a.m.
Subject: Reflections, A Year Later
It was a year ago today that I woke up with a fever, went to the hospital, and didn't come out for a long time.
Right now, I am on Fire Island (NY) with my family, lying in bed with a cool breeze coming through the window, listening to the crickets and the ocean, and writing to you.
Yesterday, my siblings and I hung out at the beach. My mother and I played pinochle, my father and I talked politics.
The ferry ride to Fire Island reminded me of the ferry rides I took in Cape Cod before this day last year, only, there was one thing that felt distinctly different: me. I feel so much more self possessed than I did before.
From my hospital bed, in one of my e-mails, I had written to you the following: "The only reason I'm doing this is because I want to live. I really want to live. I'm intensely curious as to what life will be like after this experience."
Though life after this experience is still unfolding, I can say this: I believe I am a better sister, daughter, friend, writer, listener, student and teacher than I was before. It was a painful big bang that got me here, but hey, I'm not one to turn down an experience that offers immense growth ... :)
The big bang came with some big consequences, of course. The most heartbreaking for me is that I will never be able to give birth to my own children. This intimate detail I don't mind sharing with you because it is the truth, a fact of my life as it is now. If I so choose later on, I know there are other ways to motherhood.
And there are other more trivial things: I have to wear a Medic Alert bracelet. I take a ton of drugs (though not forever). I have "chipmunk cheeks" from the steroids (temporary as well, thank goodness). I must always have health insurance (though shouldn't we all?). And, of course, the other big one: There's that nagging worry always whispering in the back of my head, "you might RELAPSE."
I get my blood tested this week in Boston. That whisper gets a little bit louder in the days before I get pricked in the phlebotomy lab. But if my blood is clean this week, then that will be nine months since the transplant—nine months I've been in Remission—and in another 15 months I can take a big sigh of relief, because the chance of relapse after two years is very, very slim.
Truth is, the whole relapse thing is kind of like life insurance. It keeps me humble. It's hard to take life for granted with that cloud hanging over your head. Though I think I may be a silver-lining junkie.
I'm itching to move on. (I mean, this experience has been great and all, but ... ) I'm psyched to move back to the Boston area later this fall / early winter. I cannot wait to get a job. (Please open your doors to me, oh Mighty Field of Journalism!) I'm preparing by working on freelance stories; reading, listening and watching as much as I can get my hands on; brainstorming and talking with friends about their projects and mine, brushing up on my Spanish, and learning stenography. I'm taking an online course. I'm not sure how much this last one will help, but my theory is faster notes equals better quotes!
One last thing. I had a conversation with myself recently. Maybe it was on the boat. Not myself as I am now, but myself of a year ago. A year ago I was scared senseless. Shocked and confused at my body—my blood's—betrayal. Unsure if I wanted to go through treatment, or if I should take my six-weeks-left-of-life check, and check-out.
So, what I said to myself on the boat was, "Hey, Ibby of a year ago, in a year from now you'll be on a boat to Fire Island. You'll be content with your family. Your hair will be short and curly. You'll be more focused, less anxious, and more aware of the inevitability of death. Consequently, you'll embrace life even more. Put simply: you'll have less neurosis!!! I know how much you are suffering, how terrified you are, and it pains me to think of you that way, but—as your soon-to-be doctor is going to tell you in another month or so—Trust Life. By trusting life, you'll learn to trust death, and once you've done that, there's really not much more to be afraid of. I love you."
That's what I said to myself. If you don't find it utterly too New Agey, I would suggest trying the exercise. Talk to one of your past selves. Tell yourself something you need to hear. And don't forget to open your ears to what some future self of you is telling you now. I think my future self is telling me, "Good job. Keep going."
Thank you for reading this. All the best to you. Keep going.