It was May sixth ten years ago. I went to sleep on a sterile table and did not feel the cut through my abdominal wall, my muscles sliced like a box cutter through cardboard. I did not see the blood or hear what they were saying, as they methodically located and cut out my uterus and ovaries. What did they talk about during their routine day of work? The weather, sports, their weekend plans, or did they comment on my pale naked body?
I woke up on May seventh, seeing a room full of fear and pain, reflected in all those eyes that took pity on poor cancerous me.
They didn't know that I was finally waking up from much longer than one day of sleep.
They thought I was dying I thought I was finally waking up to my life.
Here I am, against the odds, strong, healthy. Looking out my window at the green green world I call home. The trees dripping, the pond pock-marked with a million raindrop ripples, a great blue heron lifts off and in her prehistoric-looking flight, seems to dip her wing to me, in acknowledgement.
Looking back too, at ten years.
Three thousand six hundred and fifty days that I didn't know if I would have. What have I done with them?
I wrote a poem, fell in love, painted a picture, baked bread, built a house, found my voice, laughed, wanted, cried, sang, hated, loved. Met myself in the rubble of my heart, sometimes found god in the chaos of my life.
I am taking up the stepping stones that got me here. Grateful for the solid hard rock that I have walked, sometimes doubling back and walking them again and again.
Now, I stand by the river with a wheelbarrow full of stone and struggle.
I thought I would dump the whole load - all at once, or one by one into the water. Watching the current flow and eddy around the rough edges. I'm not sure now.
Perhaps I will build a small teahouse where I can sit quietly and invite god to join me for a cup now and then.
Jan Hutslar lives in a solar-powered house in the woods of northern New York with her daughter, where she enjoys being ALIVE. She is 12 years cancer-free after ovarian cancer.