September is a time when New Englanders start pulling out the Oktoberfests and verifying that we have adequate supplies to deal with the anticipated onslaught of falling leaves. It is not usually a time when we talk about turning over new leaves. However, this September marks exactly that for me…
Exactly 1 year ago today, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy for low-stage breast cancer. About three years prior, I brought home my babies from their 3-month NICU stay at a mesely 5 pounds a piece (3 pounds heavier than at birth). Six years ago I gave birth to Goose despite the oncologists and fertility docs insisting I was infertile for over 13 years. And 20 years ago, before I even knew it, small amounts of AML (leukemia) started growing in my blood and bone marrow.
It is absolutely impossible to imagine my life without all of these events… at the very least, I wouldn’t be able to contribute nearly as much to conversations about dinosaurs (yes, the brontosaurus is back! Thanks for the heads-up, Gus.). But in all seriousness, I also feel that this kind of luck and good fortune, places a certain impetus on me to pay it back.
Thus, while Goose heads off to Kindergarten, I head off to school to get a Health Sector MBA. As is par for the course, I’m sure we’ll take a ‘first day of school’ photo because who doesn’t want to have some good material to bribe your kid with later!?! But this got me thinking about one particular ‘first day of school’ photo… the one from seventh grade. I was super nerded-up with my ginormous glasses and floral dress complete with shoulder pads (another reason the 90’s were fabulous). What I didn’t realize when I started school that year, is that leukemia was rapidly growing inside me and would render me almost useless only four months later. Since September marks Childhood Cancer Awareness month and the beginning of school for many youngsters, I am hit with a reality that always strikes a chord… many of the families I know through my time in the cancer world have a last ‘first day of school’ photo. Given my experiences with AML once I was diagnosed and the horrible survival rates, I know all too well that, that ridiculous seventh grade photo could have been my last ‘first day of school’ photo.
So, while I set out to change the world and inevitably battle my way through accounting and finance, I am reminded of how lucky I am but also, that we must continue to fight cancer for all of those kiddos (and their families) who deserve so much more.