I am Okay but the Memory Remains

I’m okay, I promise you. I’ve had clean scans for the last 4.5 years. Yeah, there are still some long-term side effects that I deal with but otherwise, I’m okay. People ask me about my cancer experience all the time. I really don’t mind talking about it, especially if I think it will make a difference in somebody else’s life. It’s great that people I don’t see for long periods of time ask me if I’m still good. It shows they care. I’m really okay now. What still hurts, is simply this: The memory remains.

As time has gone by, the physical demands of surviving cancer have diminished greatly. Nausea isn’t as big of a problem as it used to be, neuropathy really only strikes when it’s cold or I’m over working my body. The fatigue I used to feel has gotten much better. But the memories of the experience linger, and they feel like it was simply a few hours ago. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the feelings. All of it lingering behind like a bad tattoo sleeve that you can’t cover up.

That bench over there out in front of the main building? That’s where I was the only time I heard my father drop an F bomb, right after I did, discussing the discovery of something in my brain. That computer out there in the hallway? That’s where I first really saw what the doctors saw in the scans, and it shook me to my core. Room 3204? I can still show you where I hung up the felt Christmas trees my kids made me while I was inpatient. I’m okay now but,

The memory remains.

I look around the lobby and never forget that I am too fucking young to have to be doing this. At 29 years old and more than 30 years younger than the majority of patients I would say good morning to, I never fit in the scenery around the chemo suite. And now, at 34, I still don’t belong. Yet, there I am, a few times a year, hoping to God that the news is still good. I don’t know that I could handle it if it wasn’t. Ad everyone there has the same thought on their mind: Why the hell did it have to be me? Damnit, why couldn’t have been someone else?

The memory remains.

If you have ever had a CT scan with the IV contrast then you know the taste of pennies you get when it starts to run. I can taste that at the mention of a CT scan. I use hand sanitizer like nobodies business. But never without being able to smell the cleaning chemicals they use once a day to mop the hospital rooms. I have learned every bit of medical coding on my hospital orders and could probably do it all myself at this point. I can find my veins faster than the nurse and pose for the x-rays quicker than they can take them. I am okay now, but

The memory remains.

I spoke with the intake lady today as I waited for them to process my insurance for my x-rays and blood work. She is currently two years cancer free. She shares the same sentiment. We will never be quite the same again. While life will go on, and continue, there will always be a little bit of what if. What if I go to the doctor and they tell me something is wrong again? What if I end up with a secondary cancer due to my previous treatment? What if, what if, what if.

That is the biggest part of the remaining memory. It’s the part of us that will always remain under the watchful eye. It is part of us that will stay forever in the shadows of what could be, and what has been. The constant in our new-found lives after cancer. Long after the follow ups stop. Long after the sights and smells have vanished. This will be what remains.

For those that have been there or are there now, it is a common bond that we all share. Every one of use has different memories that are associated and remain. We all went through different experiences on our paths to being survivors. But we are all linked through one common thought.

The memory remains.

John Taylor
TCAF Ambassador