I’d give anything just to be normal again

Hello folks. It’s Pinktober again and please consider this your annual reminder to always get your checkups and cancer screenings.

Early detection saved my life and it could well save yours or someone you love. Seriously, go. Go now.

In the meantime, here is an excerpt from my forthcoming book “Pink Ribbons for the Brave: A Cancer Memoir of Love, Hope and Laughter.”

So there I was on a Thursday in December, AWOL on a secret mission to Home Depot, when my knees started to give out on me somewhere between the janitorial supplies and major home appliances. I stood there, trying not to be obvious, not to crumple too far, and clinging to the cart.

I had a moment to think to myself, “Uh Roni, maybe this was NOT one of your most brilliant ideas.”

Yes, I admit it; I’d made a jailbreak from my quarantined house arrest.

I was out on my own because my amazing oncologist, Dr. Scott Christensen at U.C. Davis, had told me only that morning, “Roni, very soon you are going to be dealing with big-time fatigue, and I know this will be hard for you. You’re one of my busy girls. Yes, this is going to be bigger than what you’ve already been experiencing from the surgery and being one treatment into chemo. So, for now, whatever you feel up to, you go ahead and do it.”

I’m guessing that sneaking out to the hardware store to get a replacement water filter for my fridge, while my angel daughter Tierney was at school and unable to bust me, was not what Dr. C. had in mind. But you know, I had two good reasons.

First, everything tasted weird now, kind of like metal, and I needed to drink a lot of water. So a new filter for the fridge was a definite necessity.

Second, it felt so good to get a wrench from the garage, gingerly lay on the kitchen floor, and take out the old filter — so, you know, so NORMAL — not like chemo-girl doing battle with breast cancer.

How much more normal and happy would it feel to run out to Home Depot and get the replacement part?

If a little is good, I reasoned, well more is certainly better.

That’s what my chemo brain was saying, honestly.

Meanwhile back at the store …. OK, so I made it, VERY slowly, to the appliances section and a super nice employee got the filter out for me. He didn’t even stare at my round, cancer-drug-induced-moon-face, missing eyelashes, or telltale knit cap. So kind of him.

And then I wobbled off and gradually made it to the cashier, acting as, well as normal as I could, and then I drove home carefully, I mean really carefully. Like a thousand-year-old lady in the slow lane.

But oh friends, the sense of wild freedom I felt, the accomplishment, the sense of joy and courage — just for being able to do something that other people could do without a care.

Just to be out there in the world for 30 minutes, wearing something besides pajamas, acting like a healthy person. Trying to escape that “new normal” everyone talked about, trying to get my own actual normal back.

It really did me a world of good.

And then, the next morning, it was Chemo Day 2.

I wasn’t AS traumatized that second time around, but the only way I could cope when they started laying out all those syringes of chemo and hooking me up to the IV was to NOT LOOK.

I’ve always had a thing about needles, ever since my kindergarten vaccines when I vividly recall screaming and trying to make a break for it in the doctor’s office. (I sense a pattern here). I failed. Big Nurse cut off my exit. But look on the bright side, I never got diphtheria.

So there I was, back at the hospital, willingly entering into major-magnitude needles land to cooperate with saving my own life, and I had to be OK with it.

True confessions time: Even at that early stage, I was so tired of being poked with needles for this and that, and on Chemo Day, I usually started to lose heart. So I kept my head turned the other way and Tierney and my friend Lelly would soothe me and tell me what a brave girl I was.

Yes — it’s pink ribbons for the brave, ladies and gentlemen. I was earning my pink ribbon day by day.

That week, it was two chemo sessions down, only 14 more to go.

So, to all of you who got me through that yearlong journey with prayers and love, thank you with all my heart for having been my cheering section. I adored you then and brave, lucky me, I’m alive to adore you now!

P.S. When Tierney got home and found out about my Home Depot adventure — because I confessed that very day — she said, “OH MOM! I’m going to put a tracking device on you! Better yet, one of those ANKLETS that they put on people who are under house arrest!”

As of this writing, no anklet so far, but I knew then that she’d do it if the opportunity arose, so I got right back into my jammies and stayed on my best behavior. At least for a few more days.

I had no choice, she took the keys.

Wishing you all many blessings.