Yikes! I’ve been promoting several causes lately: SU2C, the Standford Study, Heat It To Beat It. All good things to be sure. SU2C is a grass-roots effort to help all of us to join together to beat cancer, the Stanford study seeks to help us deal with the life-altering changes we experience as survivors, and I am proud of Heat It To Beat it, it’s a good chance for us to raise awareness and to collect research funds for our cancer.

But I don’t want to only use this blog to promote causes.

We just recently passed the Sept.11th date. That date will always mean so much to me. Have I shared my Sept. 11 story here? Don’t know if I have in the past.  But here goes….maybe again?

I was treated in NYC for my cancer, I was there often for awhile. I went for an evaluation, then cytoreduction surgery and peritoneal chemo. After my surgery I went back to NYC for follow-up every three months. I had my surgery there in May of 2001. My first follow-up visit (third trip to NYC) was to be late August, early September. I made appointments to be there Sept. 5th.

My oncologist (just one of the doctors I was supposed to see there) called me in late August and asked me to change my Sept. 5th appointment to Sept. 11th. I told her I already had already booked a flight and hotel arrangements, had also made child care arrangements for Sept. 5th. I told her I was supposed to have chemo Sept. 11, so didn’t want to change my appointment date. She was a bit flustered with me, but told me okay, just that one time we could have a phone conference vs. an actual appointment since she would be unable to see me Sept. 5th.

I went to Manhattan on Sept. 4th-6th for the rest of my appointments. My husband and I had walked a lot in upper Manhattan my first trip there (highest rent zip code in the US), and Midtown my second trip there (Carnagie Hall, Times Square), so for my Sept. 5th appointment, we decided to explore lower Manhattan, the one area we’d never been. We had a picnic lunch near the Twin Towers. I got a picture of the skyline and the Twin Towers from the Statton Island Ferry.

I developed the pictues on Sept. 10th and showed my kids the Twin Towers on that day. On September 11th, I went to my chemo appointment, and when I got there everyone was in front of the TV. I asked why…they told me of the attack, that the Twin Towers had just collapsed. I saw on the TV people running down a smoke-filled sidewalk…I’d been on that sidewalk just days earlier. I thought of how I’d been near the Twin Towers just days before, probably seen many people returning to work in the Twin Towers, maybe after eating a healthy lunch, maybe a stop at the local health club. I’d felt so vulnerable when I was there and had doubted my cancer would let me live a long life; they’d been healthy and had done everything right and expected many tomorrows. Then the planes hit their buildings. It seemed so ironic. I immediately accepted something I’d heard; none of us are promised tomorrow.

I went to church after Sept. 11th and they did a slide presentation of the Twin Towers attack. I sobbed and sobbed the entire service. I saw the pictures, heard the cries, saw those who decided to jump vs. being burned to death. My heart broke.  I’d just been there.  I knew all of the sites in the slides.  To me it was personal.

I went again to NYC for yet another appointment a few months later. I went to Ground Zero, just a big hole in the ground. The quilts and pictures were still all displayed. The depression in the city was palpable. So many who had assumed long lives had perished. It was hard to wrap my mind around it. My kids hated that I was going back to NYC, and that I used an airline that had been used in the attacks…”but mom, they fly your plane into buildings!”.

I always stayed at the same hotel in NYC, so after the fact I asked the hotel staff what Sept. 11 had been like. One said he and his son lived in lower Manhattan. When he learned of the attacks, all public transportation had been suspended. He had a child in grade school in lower Manhattan, so he’d left his job and ran miles through barricades to find his son. It turned out his son had seen the Twin Towers hit by the planes from his grade-school classroom window. His son now slept with him every night, he was afraid, insecure.  The depression in NYC that trip was palpable.

September 11th had such an impact on me. What if I had changed my appointment and been there that day? Would I have been at the Twin Towers on their observation deck, maybe? Would I have not been able to come home, though my kids expected me? Would I have run down that same smoke-filled sidewalk? So many healthy and innocent people died. Why did I deserve to survive?

It gave me new incentive.  I knew if I survived, I needed to put my survival to good use.  I hope I am doing that, and am so grateful for the opportunity.