And after what had seemed like an endless ride up to the surgical floor, I found myself peering out of the 3rd story window, nervously playing with the zipper on my jacket and looking down, out onto the street below. My chestnut hair was tied back into a ponytail and my flip-flops were still wet from the downpour in the parking lot.
My sister had gone to the front desk to check me in for my surgery.
A week before, when my doctor had given me the bad news, it had been hard to hear anything else hopeful that she had said after that. What has started out as anemia at a regular doctors appointment had lead me to a hematologist and then had snowballed into something much bigger after a visit to my OB/GYN.
It had all happened so fast.
The word “tumors” had to rung in my ears, and sent a panic into my otherwise ordinary life. Then after monitoring the situation closely for a few weeks I was disheartened to hear that they had grown exponentially, to a dangerously volatile size. So in light of this new sense of urgency we had opted for the surgery in the hopes of possibly getting ahead of it.
I had asked if we could wait till after the holidays. but after seeing the progression and how rapidly the situation was worsening, my doctor said that it would not be a good idea to wait.
So here I was, inside my own nightmare wondering what tomorrow would bring.
The worst part was, that we wouldn’t even fully know the scope of the issues until the surgery had begun. Only then would we know what exactly we were dealing with. So I had no idea if I would wake up and go home with a huge sigh of relief, or if I was going to awaken to even more jarring news and be facing something much more daunting.
The unknown outcome hung over me like a thick fog, and I had been dreading this day as it ticked closer. I was becoming very familiar with the idea of my own mortality, and it was frightening.
I was terrified.
And it felt like the last normal day of my life.
And as I stood there, waiting to walk down that sterile hallway to an uncertain fate, I looked down at of all the people on the street below. I remember thinking that they all looked so deliberately purposeful…and so blissfully ordinary.
The rain has finally stopped, and the clouds had parted enough to let some sunshine penetrate the landscape. And all of a sudden the street was teeming with signs of life.
There they all were, down there, busy with their lives, dealing with traffic, Christmas shopping, walking their dogs, thinking about the holidays, and all of the other routine comings and goings of their every day lives.
And here I was, trapped in this place, with my hands pressed against the glass, wishing for such a mundane euphoria, awaiting the unknown, and wondering if I would ever know such a wonderful feeling as “ordinary”, ever again…
After today…after it was done.
And as I looked longingly down onto the street, that was when I saw her. A blonde woman standing near a sign.
I tried to focus on her.
I wanted to be her.
Who was she? Where was she going? What was she thinking about?
I was grateful for the distraction.
I closed my eyes tightly, and I tried to pretend that we could trade places, she and I. I tried to imagine, that when I opened them, I would be down there, where she was, down on the street, on my way to somewhere else. Somewhere that would take me anywhere but here.
But when I opened my eyes, all I saw was the foggy glass from my breath on the window. And as I wiped it away, I scanned the street again for her, and I spotted her bending down to tie her shoe. It was hard to tell, but for just a moment, after she stood, I thought I saw her look up at me, and for split-second we locked eyes, as if she knew of my plight, and felt my desperation to escape…
I was suddenly jarred out of my train of thought, and the spell was broken when I was startled by a tap on the shoulder.
I turned to see my sister standing there.
I could tell that she was speaking to me, but her voice was muffled through the swirling white noise of my increasing anxiety. Then as she continued to speak, my brain began to understand her words, and I heard her say that they had called my name and it was time to go…so I slowly turned away from the window.
A week had passed since my time at the hospital, and now I was in the doctors office waiting to be seen for my post surgical checkup. I looked out of the second-story window down into the parking lot.
The surgery had gone as well as could be expected, and they were extremely hopeful that I was out of the woods. But we still needed to discuss the pathology and my bloodwork to find out if there was to be any further course of action. It was cold and dreary outside, and I remember hoping that it was not a sign of the dismal news I was dreading.
A knock at the door snapped me out of my thoughts and back to reality.
The news was favorable, and she had said that she was very happy to tell me that the surgery had indeed saved my life. It was impressed upon me that I was extremely lucky that they had caught it early. She then proceeded to explain to me all of the risk factors that I would still be facing due to my obesity, and the possible future problems I could encounter as a result.
I was struck by the irony that over the past few weeks, I was scared to death that I would be receiving a death sentence. I had watched my grandmother fight that battle and lose. I was so terrified that something completely out of my control might alter my course and take my life…
And, I felt like such a hypocrite.
I was so worried that my life might be cut short by something so random and unforeseen…and yet, I was already slowly killing myself…with my own apathy.
The one thing that I could control, my obesity, I wasn’t controlling.
It was the one critical thing that I was doing nothing about.
I had been tempting fate with my health the whole time, and that was the day that I knew. The day that I realized that indeed my life HAD changed, but not in the way that I had feared. It had changed in a way that would now finally allow me to take control of my own prognosis.
And I left that day with new purpose.
Two years later…
It was chilly Autumn morning, as I ran my third half marathon. I had completed this same race the year before in a different city, but this was the first time I had tried to run the entire race, and the first time that I had done it at my goal weight.
So much had happened since that day in the doctors office when I had made the decision to take back my life. And it had all lead up to this day, this perfect day, as I ran in my new body, with my new lease on life and 150 pounds lighter.
I felt unstoppable, invincible, untouchable.
And it was at mile 10 when it happened. I hit the wall.
I started to lose steam.
I was trying to push through, but it was getting harder and harder to keep my pace.
As we came to an intersection, I followed the arrow to my left, and as I rounded the corner, I had an overwhelming feeling of deja vu. The hairs on the back of my neck started to stand up, and I began to slow down. I noticed that my shoe was untied right as I reached the sign for mile marker 10, so I stopped.
I strangely felt as though I had been here before, as an overwhelming feeling of familiarity washed over me. I felt lightheaded, and put my hands on my knees. I took a deep breath, and I tied my shoe. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched.
And it wasn’t until I stood up, that I finally realized where I was. I HAD been here before, two years earlier, on that fateful day awaiting my surgery.
I thought about that day, as I stood there, and about how much has changed from that day to this one. How I had walked into that hospital at 281 pounds, and now, two years later I was about to run past it, 150 lbs lighter, on mile 10, and in the homestretch of a half marathon.
I thought about the girl that I was, the girl that had walked into that hospital on that day, afraid, and defeated. And I thought about all that I had accomplished since that day when I had stood in that window.
And at that moment, I looked up, towards that window where I had stood, what seemed like a lifetime ago. And that was when I saw her.
There was a girl in the window.
I saw someone standing there, in that same window, looking down at me. So I focused my gaze to get a better look, and then we locked eyes for just a moment. And what I saw, changed me forever.
I saw myself.
It was me up in that window, looking down onto the street.
And then I remembered her…the blonde woman that I had seen on the street that day.
And in that instant, I felt my past and my present life folding in on itself, as two separate moments in time suddenly became one. I was simultaneously living two different days of my life in tandem, as if they were a single memory…
And then I knew.
That blonde woman was me… now.
I was the woman that I had seen down on the street on that rainy November day, two years before.
The one I had wanted to be.
An echo of the past, closing her eyes and trying to trade places with me. To become me. My past and my future colliding in my present. My mind began to swirl with the circular momentum of this epiphany of realizing that in both instances, I was watching myself…in a different time, in a different life.
I felt a tap on my shoulder, and the enchantment was broken.
A fellow racer had stopped to check on me, and I realized that I must have been standing there for a little while, because she said “Hey, are you all right?”
I smiled, took a deep breath, and wiped away the last of the tears on my face, and replied, “You know, I really think I will be”.
And then I looked back up towards the window, and she was gone.
So with all of my new found motivation, I turned with renewed purpose towards the finish line, and then, for the both of us…
I began to run.