The day was filled with firsts. My husband and I woke up after spending our first night in an apartment we rented in Perugia, Italy in the heart of Umbria. I opened my eyes to see an arched brick ceiling, part of a medieval tower. We had seen pictures of that ceiling on a website when we put our down payment on it earlier in the year, but in person the ancient mortared bricks with their graceful arc, reaching from each corner of the room, were so much more perfect. It was the first morning peering out the open shuttered window, seeing the swallows swoop around the valley below. Most importantly, it was our first morning walking up the steep hill to the top of the piazza and back down the other side to the immersion school where we would start Italian class.
It had been a dream of mine to go to Italy and take an immersion course for as long as I could remember. I was fifty three years old when the plan to go was finally beginning to take shape. However, before we made any of the reservations, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was diagnosed in May and our plans had been to leave for Italy the next year and stay for the summer. Throughout my treatment for cancer, I calculated out my recovery period. I could not let go of this trip to Italy. I wondered often if I would choose to go to Italy and learn a foreign language if I really was on my last breath; if I could not beat this cancer. I held on to that trip to Italy like an anchor keeping me healthy. I did not allow myself to think of death: I would recover and I would go to Italy to learn Italian.
As I walked across the piazza on my way to Italian class with jet lag pulling at my ankles and hazing my vision, I could not help but snap awake to the fact that I was alive and cancer free. The anticipation that I would finally be learning a foreign language in Italy, which had been my guiding light for so long, suddenly dulled in comparison to the fact that I was alive and living life. That in the end was the miracle.