We bought our house in Oxford, Massachusetts in 2005. I was pregnant with Charly, and getting ready to qualify for my PhD candidacy. Aside from typing my proposal on a computer stacked on top of unpacked boxes while sitting on a folding chair, life was perfect. As were the many memories that unfolded over the subsequent five years that we lived there unfettered by catastrophe.
Charly came into the world, and then Maddy. They took their first steps in that house. They learned to sing, to dance, to read and to love all under those fresh green shingles. So it was no surprise that when we told Charly we are considering a move, she fell apart. As did Ted, a little, on the inside where no one could really see. I on the other hand couldn’t be more excited to move as far away from that house as possible.
One of the unexpected fallouts from my cancer diagnosis has been the overbearing shadow of despair that lingers at the end of every memory. My girls play room is where I needed to live while in treatment…I couldn’t walk up and down the stairs easily. So it’s not just a room with lego’s scattered all over the floor next to toys that they used to play with. That’s the room where Maddy first saw a drain coming out of my surgical site. Every time I walk past that room, I see the loss of innocence as I am brought back with warp speed to the moment where I had to describe why I needed a mastectomy to my 2 year old.
When I’m alone in my room upstairs, it’s as though time never moved beyond those first couple of days when I was filled with such mortal fear that I couldn’t get out of bed. I would hear my family playing and laughing downstairs, muffled, as though they were in a completely different and inaccessible dimension. I hardly ever lay in bed now, I never linger. I sleep there and then I get up as fast as possible so that I don’t have to relive those moments, which will always be front and center. Time has never erased, healed or even veiled those raw moments. Rather, it has tainted all of the beauty that has unfolded there with the overarching broken record feeling of despair.
In almost every aspect of my life, I have moved past the diagnosis and am better off for it. I can control my fear. I can move this collective fight forward with every single person I talk to. My babies understand the need to help, everyone, all the time and with no expectations in return (best thing ever by the way). Despite the significant challenges that cancer poses to couples, my husband of 13 years is still my best friend. But I can’t smile from my heart in that house.
Last night, we sat as a family looking at houses on-line. After Charly realized that she would still be close enough to visit her friends, she was ok. After she saw what might be her own room in every house that we clicked through, she was ecstatic! I can’t express how happy I am to start over..again.. Here’s hoping for many weekend mornings of sleeping in!