I find myself constantly thinking of "before" and "after", usually when things are time stamped, like photos or emails or even projects at work. I think about where I was,who I was,and how I viewed life when that picture was taken or that email was written,and how different my life is now. At first I would think about life before diagnosis and life after diagnosis, then it was before the stem cell transplant and after the stem cell transplant and now it's before the blood clot and after the blood clot. Each time something life altering as happened, I wistfully look back in my past and think, "I was so lucky then" (even though at the time I certainly didn't think so) and it makes me wonder...will I look back on today and think I was so lucky now when the next bad thing happens to me?
I don't want to be a pessimist and I try to stay positive but with my history, I feel like I'm constantly looking over my shoulder. And it's interesting to think about my life pre-cancer and how I interacted with the word cancer on several occasions but never really gave it much thought...
Example 1: I signed up for the Be A Match donor registry in 2001. I was a sophomore in college and don't even remember signing up, I probably did to get a free t-shirt or a slice of pizza (life was so easy then...or so it seems now, it certainly didn't seem so then). I didn't think about the registry in terms of possibly saving someone's life one day. I had heard of bone marrow donors but I never knew what a transplant was, what it meant and how intense it is. In 2011 when my doctors were looking for a donor for me, I received a letter in the mail from Be A Match telling me that I matched up with someone and I could save a life. Yes, I matched with myself. The irony was not lost on me as I logged on to the website and asked to be taken off of the registry. Who would have thought that I would sign up for something that I would then need ten years later?
Example 2: After college I moved to New York and interned at an ad agancy where I worked on the Bristol-Myers Squibb account. I was sad that I wouldnt be working on a fun beauty account, instead a boring old pharmaceutical account....because health and medicine is boring, right? Well I had the opportunity to work on the launch of a new breast cancer medication. I produdly put this on my resume,showing future employers that I had been an integral part of the team that launched the ad campaign for a new medication. I forgot all about that experience until I was cleaning out files the orhter day and came across a resume from 2004. The word "cancer" jumped out at me and it was crazy to me that it was typed so cavalierly at the time. I never thought about the lives that medication would save, I just thought about how it would help me get a real job.
Example 3: The infamous yellow Livestrong bracelets. Everyone knew the story of Lance Armstrong and his history as a cancer survivor and soon everyone I knew was rocking the yellow Livestrong bracelets. Ross had two bracelets when I met him in 2004 and I remember stealing one from him and wearing it on and off for about a year. Then when it wasn't "in" anymore, I threw it away. I didn't wear the bracelet to honor anyone, I didn't wear it in memory of anyone, I wore it simply because it was a trend.
Part of me is sad about these examples as a time when cancer was something that happened to other people. I was probably like most people now who haven't experienced cancer first-hand themselves or through a close family member, you know cancer sucks, but you really have no idea. It's not like I didn't worry about it happening to me, I did, but I still was part of the healthy, "normal" world. You take everything for granted until you don't have that luxury anymore. "Before" I was carefree and somewhat naive, "After" I'm a constant worrier and I live with fear everyday of the future. Because I always wonder what will be my next before and after.