Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 8:18AM
Two years ago today, I hugged and kissed my family as I was wheeled into the operating room. I said a temporary goodbye to the people who had supported and cared for me throughout my entire life, people who were undoubtedly terrified at the prospect that their “little GB” was about to have her young body cut open and parts of it cut out because of cancer. Two years ago today, I focused on encouraging them in my remaining moments before surgery, high fiving them and making jokes and reminding them that everything would be okay. I felt only love as I turned the hallway out of their sight. It pulsed through my veins like the beat of my own heart. Love from my family and friends. Love from my colleagues. Love from Dr. Ramos. Love. No fear. Only love. Two years ago today, Dr. Ramos cut into my body just below my belly button, exposing a massive tumor living and thriving in my colon, big enough to cause a complete intestinal blockage. Dr. Ramos also saw a smaller tumor in my small intestine. He removed both. He also saw more cancer. Almost everywhere. That he couldn’t remove. I don’t know what was said in that operating room, but I know that it couldn’t have been good. I know that everyone who saw my insides were shocked. Perhaps resigned. Maybe even scared. Certainly feeling sorry for me. I was still under when Dr. Ramos approached my family with tears in his eyes, telling the sad tale of my initial prognosis. There would be no future for me. I would live a year, maybe two. Two probably seemed like the longest I’d live. I’d never work at O’Melveny again. I’d never play basketball or lift weights again. The vibrant life that I’d created for myself, filled with happiness and opportunity and success and friendship, would be ending far sooner than anyone had imagined. My mom remembered what I’d said the night before, and while everyone else was rightly shocked and devastated to the core, she soldiered on. She called my cousins, a nurse and a doctor living in Maryland, and explained my diagnosis: Stage IV colon cancer with mets to the peritoneum, or abdominal cavity lining. Peritoneal disease. She implored them to call who they could to figure out a plan. She knew that there must be a plan. She wouldn’t accept anything else because she knew that I wouldn’t accept anything less. She was my hero once again, after being my hero on every single day since the moment I was born. She never hesitated to be my hero and always was. There was my mom, the one who loved me – her only child – more than anything in the world, refusing to surrender. She heard what I’d said the night before, and she believed me. She believed in me. My mom didn’t give up. Not even for a second. When I was back in my hospital room, she was the one to deliver the news to me. She told me that it was Stage IV colon cancer, and calmly added the necessary, cold truth about my prognosis: “They say the cancer is very aggressive.” I smiled, just as I had when I learned that I had The Big C two days earlier. “Well, I’m an aggressive girl. What’s the game plan?” Two years ago today, I learned the truth. I was in the jaws of death, a deeply ill person, but I didn’t pay that any mind. The surgery had revitalized me, clearing my bowels of its vicious visitor and stopping all the vomit and the cramping and the bloating and the pain. By nightfall, I’d stop taking my pain medication because I knew that the quicker I stopped the pain meds, the quicker my bowels would wake up, and the quicker I could get out of the hospital and back into fighting shape. I pictured Rocky Balboa and knew that I’d have to work to become the champ. And I was deeply excited and more than ready to get to work. Two years ago today, I had no time to waste because I had no time guaranteed. But even on that day, a day when I could’ve cried or screamed or asked “Why me?”, I did none of those things. I laughed, I smiled, I plotted and planned, and I kissed and hugged. I was filled with hope, with strength, with courage, and with love. Above all, with love. Love for my family and friends, love for the life that I had built for myself, and love for the life that I had yet to live. It was that love that made my heart feel ten times bigger than ever before, strong enough to conquer anything and happy enough to have a ball while doing it. And it was love, I knew, that would carry me through each and every second of my cancer-killing adventures. It was love that would see me through and help me beat the odds. It was love that would transform a potentially devastating life experience into something entirely different: an experience filled with joy and gratitude and grit and glory. It was love that would keep me calm, collected, and focused on destroying cancer utterly. It was love that would carry me over every peak and valley, over every round of chemo and every surgery and everything else. It was love that would propel me jubilantly into my two-year cancer anniversary, a day I was not expected to live to see but a day that I knew I would see. Love. No fear. Never fear. Only love. Happy 2 year Anniversary to me. And thank all of you for the support, the friendship, the laughter, the loyalty, the generosity…and the love.