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"You Have Cancer"

March is the hardest month for me. It's supposed to be Spring, but the winter always feels endless, even as daffodils peak their yellow heads up through the snow. It's Lent, those long weeks when we mark our foreheads and the foreheads of our children, reminding them that they will die. ""Remember, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return."

It's that miserable time of year when we attempt vegetarianism and don't drink alcohol, except maybe on Tuesdays after a hard day. Or a difficult diagnosis.

This time last year I was grieving the loss of my beloved grandmother. I had been visiting the doctor every week with some strange gynecological pain. I went several times to the walk-in clinic, had two ultrasounds, and two biopsies. On this day last year, just days after her memorial service in Michigan, my doctor called me into her office.

She said to me, "We found abnormal cells."

And I asked, "When you say 'abnormal' do you actually mean, 'cancer?'"

"Yes. You have cancer." But I have a child. I haven't turned 40 yet. I hadn't been to Paris! Those are words that fall upon other people's ears; you never expect to hear them yourself.

I had been planning a trip to Paris that summer. I asked my doctor if I could still go. I didn't want to know if I was going to die or not. I wanted to know if I could still go to Paris.

Through my tears I told her that I had just lost my grandmother and the two of us had been talking about going to Paris since I was a child. We were never able to go and she got too old to travel. So, this was the year. I was going to go and she could live through me. But she died peacefully surrounded by my loving parents. She was 94 years old. She had never been to Paris, never seen the Eiffel Tower, never the Louvre or Notre Dame, or sipped coffee from tiny cups at a cafe on a quiet street in Montmartre. I hold her ashes in a locket, saved to sprinkle in the Seine. I was planning to light a candle in Notre Dame and pray for her. She is always with me and I was taking her to Paris, cancer or no cancer.

I did not go to Paris last summer. I went through cancer treatment instead.

(To be continued...)