When we are born, we are naked and penniless. When we die, it's usually about the same. (Although some choose other options). It's the space between that makes our lives wholly unique, special, remarkable, and worthy of calling it a "life".
We don't get the privilege of breathing much today. In fact, we must stop and breathe. I'm supposed to be the expert at this. I mean I have a blog called "Pace: Life is a Marathon" and I still manage to struggle with the ability to breathe, take life in and make moments count.
(Oh, I'm getting better. I'm a work in progress!)
Yesterday I announced I was having a cervical biopsy. Yes, I said the B word. B comes next to C. And, C is for Cancer, which doesn't always follow a biopsy but it did for me 13 years ago. So naturally when I got the call on Friday (when everything was crazy and I was trying to feed my eagle), I got a little worried.
You see, cancer isn't new to me. It's just something I've held in shame for a while. It's been my little secret. Until I decided it was time to get raw, real and naked.
In 2001 I landed in Houston a pup...25 and ready to take on the world. I was an employee to a dotcom that Enron had part ownership in and got sucked into the hopes and dreams of becoming a rich 20-something. In 2000 after a successful career start in St. Louis as a charter startup investor and employee later acquired, I bought some boots and moved to Texas. Enron was a coveted place where you could create, dream and make things happen. Enron loved the young and the stupid... so I joined in the year before its demise. (And boy did I learn a lot from that. Another post, another day.)
Four months after landing in Houston, I found myself sick. I had the early stage of cervical cancer that was assumed to be linked to HPV. (Assumed, not confirmed, because we had no way of knowing, but still in my young feeble mind, it was "my fault".) In 2001, it was uncouth to be associated with HPV especially since it's bigger cousin HIV had scared people for the better part of 20 years. Needless to say I held shame.
2001 was a terrible year for a lot of people. The .COM bubble had burst. Tropical Storm Allison decimated Houston. God spared me this drama. I lived in the right apartment complex so I was lucky. My step brother took his own life and left my step mother, a wife and kids behind completely crushed. Enron collapsed. 911 forever changed everything. I lost my 2nd job due to layoff.
I guess part of me felt a little blessed given all the chaos around me. After all, this was supposed to happen in 1999 when we turned the clock to 2000!?!?
With no family in Houston (and an estranged relationship with most of them), no friends in a new town, and a new job, I decided I would take on this C stuff on my own. After all I'm superwoman, larger than life and I could do it all. I never ask. I just deliver. I get things done. I give.
Oh I want to say I kept a 'Keep Calm and Fight Cancer' mindset. Except it was nothing short of calm. It was scary and it kicked my *** daily.
The doctor gave me options. The insurance company wanted to pay for one of those options: the easy one. Of course, don't we all want to take the easy way out? The problem is the easy way was complicated. It meant making a life decision before I was really ready.
At 25, I was saddled with the choice of taking out my "lady" parts (AKA hysterectomy) or go for a painful, untested, untried and unpopular route of drug therapy with the 50-50 chance I'd have a shot at children later. Needless to say, the insurance case worker didn't like option 2. That meant paying for it. It also meant setting a possible precedent. Oh, and the 50-50 shot at kids was not a guarantee my child would be "normal". (Whatever normal means!?)
They didn't pay. Apparently the route "I chose" was not their choice, therefore this choice not covered. Oh I was in agony. How could I turn my back on the chance I'd have a child later? How did this happen? Why me? Why now? Why? Maybe I should just cut it all out and be a single career woman who never marries, lives rich with my piles of money, my Audi and a $500k home? Superwoman emerged, again. I didn't put up with NO. Apparently I didn't like the word NO as a child either (so says my mother).
The attorney I sweet-talked told me I had a case. At 25, I had no real money. I was just paying off college debt. I just had heart, balls and a belief in myself. I told him all I wanted is what was right. Pay my bills. Pay your fees. And get out of my way. I didn't want the punitive damages or other fees that people usually get from an unfair situation. I just wanted to be free and clear and know I fought hard.
I wanted to look back on that day later and know I did what was right.
So it happened. I balled, threw up, suffered, balled more, and held the fight close to my vest. Little did I know this was my first real marathon in life. And, I won. The insurance company paid and I got to preserve what womanhood I could. Looking back, with what I got in my 3 year old child Ally, I'd do it again. She's awesome and reminds me every day how lucky I am to be her mommy.
On December 31, 2001, the Enron pipe dream and the .com company were worth the stock I had: pennies. The companies I was associating myself with were crooks, frauds, and bankrupt. I was naked, unemployed and penniless again.
But it was good to be alive.
Read Part 2: The Woman I Fought To Become here.
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