Karen had her final treatment this week on Tuesday, crossing the finish line for the run of six that was originally prescribed. We now wait to see if her body has responded favorably to the medicine, of which her oncologist said 80% of women do. Here’s to hoping she is not in that 20%.

Reflecting back on the beginning of this story, I recall the shock and pain that came with the words, “you have cancer.” At that point I knew we had been handed something that we did not want, but could not return. This would be a new chapter of our lives that would have one of several possible outcomes, with the basic delineation being a favorable or a devastating one.

And we still don’t know, nor will we know for quite some time. The prognosis of the oncologist right now appears good. He seems to think that Karen is doing very well. All her blood tests show normal numbers. The cancer marker gives no indication of further cancer progression. She continues to stay active despite the nausea that follows treatment, and even that has not been debilitating. In other words, this is the way we want the story to be written.

But you and I have seen enough movies to know about plot twists, tension and other sources of drama that get injected into the story that come out of nowhere and change your mind about how you thought the story would originally play out. I find myself in that position today. Relieved the treatments are over, yet cautious that there could be more someday down the road.

And with this said, what I don’t want to do is live in fear of tomorrow. I know in my head that the future is not knowable for anyone, cancer or no. We each dwell in a fragile world of unpredictable nature, and this fact requires an outlook that embraces that reality, but also is not crippled by it either.

I know it sounds cliché, but taking a day at a time has taken on new meaning. I remember when our children were infants, and our friends with older kids would remind us that “they grow up quickly.” In the midst of dealing with dirty diapers and spit up, you couldn’t help but think, “yea, right.” But experience now proves them correct, and I find myself from time to time wanting some of those days back, when they were first learning to walk and talk and read and write and discover the world. We only get one run through, but we do get to relive the memories.

Every year around Christmas season, when my dad and I would see a commercial on TV for a slot car racing set, or a nifty helicopter that you could fly indoors, he often would mutter, “too bad we don’t have a nine year old around here.” I didn’t viscerally know what he meant until a few Christmases ago, when there were no such toys under our tree to open and play with. My kids have grown up, and rightfully they should, and I could either mourn the loss and wish for the past to return or appreciate the new season and look for new memories that need to be made.

Karen’s story offers me the same opportunity. Do I wish for the previous days of health before knowing about her cancer, or do I hold on to today and all it has to offer? Do I fear tomorrow’s uncertainty, or do I offer up thanks that together we share the moments in front of us?

All I have is right now.

The First Finish Line