February 22, 2013 was the day Allison was diagnosed with cancer. Three years ago today.
Today and October 23, the day my dad was diagnosed, still make me angry. Angry every year. Every. Single. Year. Angry in a way that clouds my mood and makes my breakfast taste different. I’m angry for me, and also for Allison, and for our extended families. And I still feel indignant. And small. And sad.
I feel some guilt that I can’t flip a switch and say “I’m relieved that’s over.” But I can’t. That feels disingenuous. And “over” sounds too much like “forgotten” to my mind. I haven’t forgotten. I don’t want to.
So today, somewhat begrudgingly, I’m thankful for relief. Not relief in the sense of “release from anxiety or stress.” But relief as in “thrown into relief.” Or “buoyed by relief.”
One of the definitions of relief is “the state of being clearly visible or obvious due to being accentuated by contrast.” Today stands out in relief against most days on the calendar. I’m grateful to mark a third year since the dread of Allison’s initial diagnosis, but marking the year also calls the day into relief against the backdrop of a mostly-normal life we’re able to lead now. Today’s a day that feels real, and I’ve found myself in a swirl of emotions that usually stay in the background. Today stands out against myriad other anniversaries I mark during the year.
Another definition of relief is “assistance to those in difficulty.” And I am thankful for others’ relief. On Saturday, I had the chance to work outside in our yard for most of the afternoon. As I raked, I found myself thankful for a sunny afternoon, and for a yard that I can tend, and for a body that is up to the task. An extension of that gratitude is how thankful I am for our house, one that we would literally not be in if not for the generous support of family. Moving into a new space 18 months ago was crucial, both physically and emotionally. The support we’ve always felt from friends and family has been even more present and generous in the last three years. I remain grateful for the kindness of others.
I guess it’s only appropriate today that I can simultaneously feel unrelieved while I note the day’s stark relief and cite my gratitude for the relief gifted us by others. Maybe I'm more comfortable with paradox the older I get. I’m trying to allow myself to feel the wave of paradoxical feelings that today brings. I’m trying to appreciate what is, hope for what’s to come, and recognize the past as the past.