Friday, July 15, 2011

the call

tomorrow will be one year from the day last year - the day before my 35th birthday - that i received the news that i had been diagnosed with melanoma. i can remember that day so clearly, and the events play back as if there were in slow motion.

i had gone to my general doc when i was really sick with a flu bug and was begging her to give me something to end my misery. when i saw her, i had a zip-up fleece on. when we we talking about the flu, she noticed the mole on my collarbone area. she said that she didn't like how it looked, and thought that she should do a biopsy. we ended up doing the biopsy in july the week before my birthday.

on friday the 16th, i was getting ready to go into work and missed a call from my doctor while i was in the shower. when i listened to the voicemail, i immediately knew it was cancer although she didn't tell me that. the way she talked and her tone told me it wasn't good. but, a small part of me held out hope that i was wrong. i returned the call but she was in with another patient. so, i headed into downtown seattle to work hoping that she would prove me wrong when she called back. i got to the office at about 10:10am. my good friend kimberly - who had the office next to me - popped in to catch up. about 5 minutes into our chat, my cell lighted up with my doctor's number. i remember telling kimberly to wait just a second while i took the call. what i had hoped my doctor wouldn't tell me is exactly what she told me. the biopsy confirmed it was melanoma, and she had booked me an appointment immediately in bellevue to see a dermatologist and i needed to leave for it right then. i immediately started to cry and tried my best to write down where i was supposed to go. it was obviously clear to kimberly that the news was not good, but she stayed with me, and i will never forget that. i can't imagine how much harder it would have been to be by myself when i had got the news. kimberly also held it together to help get me on my way, and i know that must have been really hard for her. she would tell me later that she was barely keeping herself together, but was focused on getting me on my way and figured she could fall apart after i walked out the door.

i picked up barrett and we went to the dermatologist appointment. he looked at the melanoma and indicated that i needed to be referred to UW and he would call them and ensure that they called me on monday to schedule an appointment.

within an hour, my life turned upside down. i remember thinking how ironic it was to get the news the day before my 35th birthday and my plans for a fun weekend to celebrate. i remember calling my mom, which would be the first in a series of the hardest calls i have ever made. i remember wondering if i would live to see my 36th birthday. i remember thinking of malena and that the thought had never crossed my mind that there was a potential i wouldn't see her grow up. i remember my brain going into overtime with a million thoughts at the same time. i remember that my parents were on their way to our house when i called them as they were coming up to celebrate my birthday. i remember opening the door when they got here, the looks on their faces, and thinking that i was now their daughter with cancer. i remember thinking that my life, no matter what the outcome was, would never be the same.

i was pretty much a walking zombie on my birthday - clearly still processing the events from the day before. i hung out with my mom and sister in the morning, and i literally felt a gray rain cloud above us every step we took. barrett took me to dinner that night, but it was tough to not talk about the cancer when that was probably the one thing we didn't want to talk about. i remember getting texts and facebook messages from friends and family wishing me a happy birthday and thinking that they didn't know but that i would need to tell them - and that i had no idea how i would tell them the news.

i think that july 16th will be a day that i will always have anxiety around. i have had this really anxious feeling for awhile now that something bad is going to happen tomorrow - but the rational part of my brain knows that is not going to happen. i have had dreams this week that my phone rings tomorrow and it is my doctor's office. i think that my brain is just replaying last year again and again and i can't shake it. maybe next year the 16th will be less anxious. i hope so. 

there will now forever be dates that are tougher than others for me - july 16th, july 23rd when i had surgery, august 5th when we met with the oncologist to talk about my prognosis and options, august 30th when i started treatment....

sunday will mark my 36th birthday, and i am so very thankful for another birthday to celebrate. i will be with my newphew zach as he celebrates his 21st birthday - we share the same birthday, and that will be a topic of a blog next week. though the last year has been my toughest by far, i am here and i have made it this far - and i plan to keep on making it.

look for another update mid to late next week....

xo, alli


  1. Alli, happy birthday! The blog looks great, thanks for your thoughts on mine (Willam Fighting Cancer). Sharing your struggles with this damn disease helps you, your caregivers and everyone else it touches. Good thoughts and keep up the fight.

  2. Hi Alli, Want to wish you the best ever birthday. Hope you had a great one. Love your blog. Keeps me updated. Love cousin Gloria

  3. I know this is getting redundant, but I LOVE YOU!!!! I so wish I could take the anxiety of July 16 away. How beautiful though that your appreciation of July 17 must go even deeper. It does for me. Thirty-six years of touching others through your light, your love, your heart, your laugh, and now? This blog. Happy Birthday, Alli!