Charles Dickens began A Tale of Two Cities with, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” I couldn’t tell you anything else about the rest of the novel. So I guess it’s fortunate that he put the best part right at the beginning like that, so I wouldn’t have to continue reading.

I’m a bookworm and goodie-goodie who always did my homework and the assigned reading. But when that book was required for 10th grade English, I just couldn’t get through it. It was my mom’s copy of the book, and I don’t think she read it either. Maybe I had a cursed volume. Judging from her high school copy of Much Ado About Nothing, in which she scribbled out the word “ado” to show her sentiments about the play, I would say I inherited her aversion to Shakespeare as well.

But the other day I found myself thinking about this opening phrase. While Dickens is talking about the time around the French Revolution, those lines can refer to almost any time. High school, for example.

There have been some good things that have come from this cancer diagnosis—the outpouring of support from friends and family, my realization that I need to be more confident and fearless.

But this will obviously not be the best of times. With the cancer diagnosis in February and the job loss this summer, 2013 really hasn’t been my year so far. Irrationally, I hope that this double dose of bad luck means only good things ahead, though I know there’s not a finite amount of sad things that can happen.

I wondered aloud if I’d appreciated what I had before the cancer diagnosis. I think so. I knew things were good and was grateful for what I had. I appreciated my good health and my great job.

In Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s, one of the young people with cancer notes that she felt she appreciated life. She didn’t need cancer to teach her a life lesson.

But then again, cancer is a cell aberration, not something you get because you need to learn something. Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t try to learn something from every experience.  Still, before cancer, I lived for the moment and mindfully and experienced daily gratitude, all the things that you’re supposed to learn in yoga. Now, I feel that is less so, but that’s temporary.

In fact, everything is temporary. I can’t even remember where I heard that the bad doesn’t stay forever, but neither does the good. Was it a yoga class? Something I read? The last part haunted me—even good things are fleeting. But we know that.

This weekend has been particularly hard for me, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because, as of Friday, I’m two-thirds done—eight treatments down, four to go. It didn’t bring with it the jubilation the halfway mark did. With the possible end in sight, I’m getting impatient. Only two more months to go, yet two more months to go. I’ve become a full-time worrier, when I know it doesn’t help. I worry about Wednesday’s PET scan. What if it turns out I need more treatment?

Physically, I’m starting to feel the effects of the chemotherapy a bit more, since it’s cumulative. I have an appointment tomorrow with a podiatrist to get my toenails lopped off to avoid infection. They’ve been separating from the nail bed and turning various colors, and it’s best that they go, for now. I’m also on some new medications to keep me from getting infections: Bactrim, Acyclovir (an anti-viral) and Fluconozole.

My hair is still falling out, and it’s noticeably thinner.  I was hoping it could hang on for the next few months. Knowing my deep love of pop culture and my current obsession with Breaking Bad, my boyfriend suggested I could time the shaving of my head with the premiere of the show’s final eight episodes next Sunday. I have to admit, that prospect cheers me up immensely. Shaving my head to be a Walter White superfan? I’m in!

I have a weird mark that looks like a bruise from one of my bra straps, and my doctor says that’s common with ABVD—a scratch or skin irritation becomes a brown mark on your skin. I have another on my arm from carrying a plastic bag yesterday.

I bruise like an overripe peach, yet inside, I feel myself getting bitter. Plus, I’m actually physically hardening inside. My veins are hardening from the chemotherapy drugs. The good news is that my left arm hurts a bit less, but now my right arm feels bruised, and it looks red and irritated. So I am getting physically tougher in some ways while falling apart. I’d like to get through these next four treatments intravenously without needing a chemo port installed.

Then the bargaining begins. OK, I’ll shave my head if it means I don’t have to get a port. Who, exactly, am I bargaining with? Life doesn’t work that way.

But it’s the bitterness that makes me feel the worst. My temper has been unbearably short. I know better than to act like this. I hate that I sometimes have to struggle to focus on the good now.

I will get better. This is temporary. Happy events have happened this week, including the birth of my best friend’s baby. If I focus on the bad, I’ll miss out on the good.

So this won’t be my best summer. I’ve never really had a bad summer, since it’s my favorite season. Even the summer of 1993, when I spent the summer painting all my furniture black, was OK.

I have some amazing things left to do and experience in the next few months. Maybe that’s my lesson, for today, at least—not letting the negative cloud the good.


  1. Becky swartz says:

    Im a friend of Liz’s.. she keeps me in the loop because my daughter-in-law,Melissa fought a similar battle 7 years ago. I just want you to know that people you dont even know are pulling for you. Together we’re sending you good thoughts, prayers, hopes, and deep felt expressions of encouragement and support. Lean on what you cant see or touch, but try to feel it anyway. Melissa celebrated her 6 year mark in July. Her strength was and is amazing and i know she got so much of that from the love of others. You are loved too.

  2. Mel says:

    Hi. I am a friend of Liz’s through my mother in law, Becky (see prior message). I have been reading your blog and keep updated through Liz’s e-mails. I understand completely what you are going through. I too had ABVD for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. If you ever want to e-mail with me or just talk, please let me know. My e-mail address is beaniern(at) I hope to hear from you, but totally understand if you would rather not.

    – Mel

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