The actual day

Our Nation’s Rush Hour

Six years ago I got a call from my dermatologist, Dr. A, which set in motion a chain of events that I’m still trying to parse, even at this distance. A spot on my back — not even a mole, a nothing, biopsied once and found unremarkable — had turned bad.

It would have been enough — dayenu, as we will soon sing at the Passover seder — to have dealt with melanoma once. But that wasn’t my trajectory.

To have a second thing happen on this same date means I’d need to take heed. I marked it on my calendar and get reminders every year: 2013 – Melanoma diagnosed. 2015 – Brain metastases. (When I’m gone, do those reminders continue in perpetuity? Who sees them?)

This day weighs on me precisely because I am here to remember it. And because Kate, and Jody, and so many others, are not. Walking with J down a charming downtown street in the dead center of the sweet spot of a DC spring, I told him that the reason I often have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning is the weight of knowing I have made it this far and so many others haven’t.

It’s true that melanoma treatments have shown so much progress — but the seemingly random nature of how patients respond to them turns us into freshly hatched sea turtles scrambling to get across the sand and into the waves before a predator plucks us off. (Although our odds of survival are slightly better than theirs.)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful to be here. But on this fourth anniversary of the start of the latest phase of illness, I feel even more bereft about the people missing at the reunion table, the people I rooted for from afar. This is a disease that somehow, for now, leaves me be but takes others away, or else makes them suffer things I never had to contend with in order to get well — and the randomness of that is too much for even this perfect spring evening to completely erase.

4 thoughts on “The actual day

  1. Deborah, You stayed at our guesthouse in Dixon on the Embudo River was it two or three years ago now? My husband Cedric didn’t meet you as he was on a work trip. I was thinking about you last month. Then today, when I plugged in an emailer’s first name,Deborah, up came your full name! So I googled your blog; I was apprehensive, then thrilled when I saw your post from the month of April and the year 2019. I am profoundly happy for you and your family. It seems that you have received the best treatment and care as well as your high levels of self-care. I’m very proud of you!! And I love your writing. I hope you are still writing now. Sending love from a near stranger whose life you touched here in northern New Mexico…Kris

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kris, it’s so wonderful to hear from you. Thank you for remembering us! Our stay at your guesthouse and in Dixon was a major highlight of our trip to NM. I keep dreaming of coming back… It was brave of you to check in to my blog because so many cancer blogs don’t have happy endings or sequels… and yet here I am almost four years out from my last crisis, knock wood. Hope you are doing well. If you ever see Dolores, who sold us some amazing red chile powder from the back of her car in front of the Dixon food coop, please tell her we’ve made some amazing enchiladas with it! All my best wishes

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I will let Dolores know! I have grown to love red chili myself. Four years is amazing!! The carpenter who built our house is on his sixth year living with pancreatic cancer. He responds beautifully to the treatment.He goes to mdanderson in Houston. We see him quite a bit. The two of you give me hope, something we all need every day. Take care. I’ll check in again! Kris

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kris, you can’t imagine how well-timed your hopeful message is. Someone I know was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and I was feeling very low about it. Hearing this news about your friend is very encouraging! Thank you!


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