Twenty-sixteen. We’re gifted with a whole ’nother year to play with; 365 whole days. Oops. 366. It’s Leap Year! We get an extra. Hooray! I will try to use it wisely. Joyfully. Gracefully. Gratefully. I commend this to you as well. In spite of its travails — sometimes, even because of them — life is good and sweet.
Results of my annual physical were different in 2015. Generally, it’s “Your fine. Keep up the good work.” This time, I got a letter from the doctor including a highly ironic use of the word “positive.” There’s not much positive about being told that one of the tests shows an abnormal result. A colonoscopy was recommended.
Oh, boy! I thought. First I get to drink some revolting slime designed to make me poop my brains out. Then, I get to starve for a day or so. Then, someone I have never met is going to maneuver a probe up into my lower gut to take a sample of my colon to see if it’s cancerous. Snip. And, then I get to eat again while I wait to find out what they found out.
While I was thinking this, none of it had happened yet. It was a remote event in the future; not very far into the future, but still. In the meantime, I had my teeth cleaned and bought a car — on time; two very hopeful acts, I thought. I didn’t tell the loan officer about the impending procedure. Didn’t want to jinx the deal. Either one of the deals, for that matter.
In fact, I hardly told anyone about the impending procedure. I found that on some levels, as much as I expose myself through this sort of endeavor — writing — I’m a very private person. I wasn’t telling anybody until I got results. Asking for prayer came to mind, but prayer seems to be one of those pre-surgery kind of things; pre-whatever-kind-of-treatment kind of things. I could pray all day — and my friends with me —they wouldn’t find cancer, but I didn’t believe it would change the results of the colonoscopy. They would either find cancer or they wouldn’t.
In spite of that, I prayed that they wouldn’t.
In the six weeks between receiving that letter and going to my date with the doctor, there came a heightened sense of appreciation for small things. When my mom died earlier in the summer, I took the computer I had given her home with me. The desktop picture folder is full of images of adventures, with and without her, as well as family photos from long ago, when we siblings were children and our old-fashioned, anachronistic grandparents still lived in their log house up the farm drive across the highway. Poignancy was preloaded on the very machine upon which I began writing this.
Taking the dog to the river wasn’t just an exercise in exercise any more. Reverting to childhood games, I started skipping rocks between tennis ball launches. And playing “cut the devil’s throat,” in which flat rocks are thrown in such a manner that they enter the water on edge, with nearly no splash and a satisfying “galoomph.”
I began indulging myself with massage from a friend who is very good at the art.
I began consciously telling friends, in one manner or another, that I loved them.
It became very important not to procrastinate. About anything.
The colonoscopy was September 9. With my sister in the passenger seat ready to drive me home, we went up Highway 56, following Bull River. The fires had calmed a bit, and through the smoke we could see both the East and West Cabinets reclining on their respective sides of the river. I counted peaks and ridges I have been on, and made myself promises about a few more.
There was another sprinkling of irony in the fact that we were headed for Cabinet Peaks, the medical center in Libby, which, I would learn, is a fine facility with a great staff. There was no moment when I felt fear about anything having to do with the operation. They got me ready, moved me into the operating room, put a port in my arm, attached a tube from a bottle of something, and I woke up in an easy chair tucked into a nice warm blanket, feeling like I’d just had the best nap of my life.
We should all do this.
A few minutes later, the doctor stuck his head into my cubicle. “No cancer,” he said, and a few other things I missed completely. All I could do was laugh.
I can only think of one set of words I hold more dearly than that announcement and that is, “I love you.”
Say it often, friends. Every day.
Happy New Year.