The first day of my Foreign Service orientation was last Monday and, unlike nearly every other day when we’re at the training center in Virginia, on this first day we met at the State Department headquarters in DC. It’s a part of town I know pretty well.
I took the crowded morning metro to Foggy Bottom and went up the escalator. I was greeted by rainy and unusually warm January morning. I couldn’t help but notice that just a few yards to my left was the hospital where I had surgery almost exactly a year ago, and that I’ve visited at least a dozen times since.
As I walked to the State Department, I passed the building housing a small food court used mostly by students from George Washington University and where Alex and I sat somewhat stunned after my diagnosis last January. I remember looking around, so uncertain about the future and so bitter at all the smiling students who weren’t just told they had cancer. It didn’t make sense, but I wondered how they could be so happy at a time like that.
It seems so dramatic, now, to look back and think about how upset I felt. After all, everything has been great since then. The cancer turned out to be just about the least dangerous type one can get and every follow up I have had has shown no sign of its return. I don’t think of myself as a “cancer survivor.” I save that moniker for the other people I saw getting chemo – the ones who knew the names of all the nurses and other patients and who had obviously been in the chemo room before and who obviously had a much tougher road than I did.
Even so, I felt amazed to see that food court again and to realize that despite all that has happened in the last year, I still ended up back here, but under circumstances that are so much better.