I’ve struggled with where to begin. That’s the thing about stories. Where does it all begin and where does it end. So, I will begin where all good stories do – in the middle. It is from where we are now, with a particular past – a sortie through history – that we determine how to navigate the future.

How and why did I end up here? And what history worked upon me to create my worldview? As every good protagonist knows, we cannot exist without our past.

I can still remember the way the sun made the dust particles shimmer as it refracted through the window. It was cold outside and the air was clear the way it can only be after a snowstorm.

“Can you come down here?”

Why would I need to drive 2 hours to receive the news? It was supposed to be somewhat benign. An anomaly we would have to watch or, worst case, a funky set of cells we could cut out. “I’d rather just hear it.”

My surgeon’s sigh was cryptic, her pause protracted. The whole reason I had felt comfortable with her was her lack of drama. An anti-alarmist, I assumed we would have a meeting of the minds and deal with this in a rational manner. Her demeanor was giving me second thoughts.

“I really think you should come down.”

“No. I just got home from taking my daughter to school 40 minutes away. I have to get some things done.” I wouldn’t tell her how much pain I was in. Advil couldn’t cut down on the swelling, bruising, or mind numbing agony. As a profound migraine sufferer, I had always been capable of chewing nails. Whatever life had to throw at me, I was up to the challenge and then some. “I’d rather just hear it and deal with it.” I needed to show her just how strong I was. My worldview? You can’t just let life happen to you. You have to be an agent in it and not one whose form of action was allowing it to happen.

“Are you sitting down?”

Oh my God. The drama. “Yes. I’m sitting down.”

“I know we didn’t discuss this possibility. I know I told you the worst case scenario was atypical hyperplasia and I didn’t believe it would even be that. I’m sorry. You have ductal carcinoma in situ as well as invasive cancer.”

The couch opened up and I fell into a hole. It was smothering me.

“Liz? Are you there?”


“I’m sorry. I think you need to come down here soon. We have to talk. We have to plan where we go from here.”


“When can you get down here?”

The blocks on my scheduler blurred. Where was I? I recognized my room, but everything had turned dark. I still couldn’t breathe and the hole was getting bigger.

“I don’t know. I have to call you back.”

“Don’t wait.”

“Okay.” I put the receiver down. The dust still swirled, but the world had shifted.

That was the moment the floodgates began to open. Four years later on Christmas day, a man in a white coat in an emergency room planted a needle in my Dad’s thigh. Seven days later, my Dad was dead and the entire concrete foundation of that floodgate crumbled. But that is another part of the story and, in between, the past fused with the present.

We can never fully extract ourselves from who we are even as our worldviews begin to crumble.