What Comes Next

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And now for a less depressing, more logistical update on what happens next! As I said in my last post, we head to New York next week. Our movers came yesterday, since it was somehow suddenly the last day of the month. By tomorrow we will be done with most moving-related tasks and enjoying our last weekend in Chicago. Then we’ll fly out to beautiful LaGaurdia airport with our tiny dog on Monday morning. For the month of March, we will be living in an adorable Airbnb in Brooklyn (on the border of Park Slope and Gowanus). Then we’ll look for a more permanent place to move into in April, ideally somewhere north or west of Prospect Park (and hopefully close to the park, we will be missing Chicago’s many trees pretty hard).

I guess unsurprisingly, the Google moving package is generous; we’ll be reimbursed for the temporary housing, and it even covered getting our car shipped (for someone who has had insanely scrappy moves in the past in which I asked literal strangers to park the moving van for me, this continues to be unbelievable). AND YOU GUYS SOMEONE PACKED OUR BOXES. This absolute luxury was a moving game changer, one I’m guessing we will not use when we have to pay for our own move again, but it was amazing. And particularly helpful right now, when even sorting through and organizing our belongings was a massive use of energy. The whole package has also been super helpful financially as we move to one of the most expensive cities in the country after living this single salary life for over a year (if one more person tells me New York is expensive, I will yell “and water is wet” at them—we know, you guys! It’s stressful enough!).

Today is also the one-year anniversary of my diagnosis. A year plus three days ago, Nico was offered the job that prompted this move; it was initially posted in New York, where we hoped to wind up after graduation last summer. It was also in an area of the company that he’d been trying to get into for a while. He was excited and nervous throughout the interview process, which happened about two weeks before we knew anything was wrong. The day he found out he was one of the finalists, we got the bad CT that told us this was much more serious than they hoped (even knowing it was most likely a cancer). That day, Nico told the hiring manager what little we knew, and that he understood if they wanted to go with a—we’ll say less complicated—candidate. When they offered it to him anyway, I’d been unexpectedly hospitalized for several  days and was about to go into surgery to have a large lymph node removed for biopsy. It was stressful, and pobresito Nico didn’t get to celebrate this accomplishment like I would have liked, but it also felt like a hopeful vote of confidence that at some point, we would make it out there.

A beast of a year later, here we are. It’s been a big week—we went through everything we own, even the mystery boxes tucked away in our basement storage units. Over the last 10 days, I think we’ve probably cut our belongings in half in preparation for what I’m sure will be a much smaller apartment in Brooklyn. It was tiring, but also cathartic. We shed a lot of items that remind us of this past year, and I tossed a bunch of stuff I wore when I was a 23-year-old living in DC and somehow carted around through five different apartments. Why did I do that? Did I think someday I would need four too-small Ann Taylor Loft pencil skirts?

The big physical item that we’ll be letting go of is our beloved tan couch, which Nico bought with his very first paycheck after college (pretty sure I bought something stupid like three gin and tonics with my first post-grad paycheck and am always delighted by the fact that this was his first purchase). I have practically lived on it for the past 12 months, particularly the first few months of treatment when the tumor was pushing too hard on my chest and I slept sitting up almost every night. It is enormous, large enough for an adult even a couple inches taller than me to comfortably sleep on, and soft, lived in like a perfect old tee shirt. Our future closet of a home won’t accommodate its largesse, but that did not stop me from attempting to bring it. “What if we get a place and it turns out to be the perfect size for the couch? Won’t we be so sad?” I could see the concern in Nico’s eyes that I was this attached to an 11 year old, stained inanimate object, but luckily a friend told me (in no uncertain terms and accompanied by some colorful language) what he would not: that I am too attached to this thing, and it is time to let it go.

As it turns out, I’m also pretty in love with the cold, windy, big-shouldered city of Chicago, but it’s time to let it go as well. Our friends here have been incredible, loyal, fun, and helpful in this crazy year, and more than the lake or our favorite Mexican breakfast place (Esencia: highly recommend) or even my favorite couch ever, we will miss them in our everyday lives. They showed up for us again and again—they visited in the hospital, helped me with my IVF shots, checked on me when Nico went out of town, quietly did the dishes when they stopped by, created a schedule for meal drop offs, took care of our dog for months on end and at random last minute times like the past two days, took Nico out when he desperately needed to a break, made us endless cookies, sat by my bed while I cried, buoyed and entertained us with personal and political gossip, and generally made this hellish year brighter every single day.

Thank you all for making Chicago home. Throughout the past weeks I’ve had countless moments where I think we are absolutely stupid and crazy for leaving this community. Would it have been nice to recover in Chicago a bit longer? Yes. Does it feel a little insane to move to a new place 90 days after I finished pretty intense treatments? Also yes! At first I was annoyed that we needed to move a little faster than we wanted based on Nico’s contract, but now it’s kind of nice that the timing wasn’t necessarily a choice–we’re not wondering or arguing about whether we did the right thing. It’s just a thing we need to do, and I think ultimately it will be good to have a fresh start in a new place (and eventually with a new couch). Like a lot of leaving, this step is bittersweet.

But we will be back pretty regularly! Every three months, I need to get bloodwork and have my port flushed, and every six months I’ll get a contrast CT to check for any swelling in my lymph nodes or growth in the mass in my chest (it didn’t full go away but is now just a benign mass—we’ll find out in May exactly how big it still is as it’s hard to tell on a PET scan). I could completely switch my care to New York, allegedly they have hospitals there too, but in order for my results to be counted in the clinical trial I need to be here—this is important to me because if this trial is successful, it could mean a whole new option of less toxic treatment for Hodgkin’s patients. The trial also had what felt like a lot of risks, and knowing I was doing it for a larger reason was helpful for me as we chugged along.

More than all that, though, I am just not ready to leave Dr. K and her team. Up until our most recent visit, I cried any time she brought up the idea of having another oncologist because she and C, the PA we love so much, have become our touchstones of safety and if not certainty, at least a ton of knowledge. We know it’s possible that things could go wrong again, but it’s comforting to have the same team helping us through this next part.

So for a while, we’ll do the commute and get to see our friends. I will be back in May, August, and next November for various medical things, as well as a wedding (one that I am VERY excited for) in July. This means three visits when Chicago is warm and beautiful! I’ll be able to do favorite my lake walk again, which I’ve finally accepted is just not going to happen before I leave on Monday—it’s too damn cold, and I don’t think another eight years here would have changed my hatred of the cold. I know I’m not a true Chicagoan because I don’t even act proud or tough about the weather, I just hate it (and because we are moving to New York, which many Chicagoans see as high treason, and because I will forever be a St. Louisan at heart).

I think those are all the big things for now. On this anniversary, here’s hoping for a better year, but for now just a fun weekend, no snowstorms on Monday, and a Brooklyn apartment that is slightly larger than our Chicago walk-in closet.

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