Facing -and fighting- cancer was like watching seasons change.
Before cancer I was going through life as if it were summer. Life was warm, happily filled with every day things. I took walks, I enjoyed family and friends, life was good.
Then came fall and the first chilly breeze. I had my first mammogram just after I turned fifty years old. It was November, Thanksgiving was in the air so I wasn’t thinking anything at all about possibilities only getting the test over and out of the way and my getting back to living. Summertime was going to be a long way away. The last colors that had burst forth with Autumn faded away as I got the call that more images were needed. Unfazed and unworried I went in the day after Christmas to get the images done so my mother and I could hit the shops. We wouldn’t hit the stores that day for the first time in years. After having multiple images taken, then going for an ultrasound the mood for shopping was gone. The cold of winter’s reality was approaching, the clouds on the horizon growing thicker. Even before any confirmations the chill ran up my back, it was going to be a cold winter. I didn’t need any weather predictors telling me that. When the confirmation came I was ready, as ready as one could be in those circumstances.
As I progressed through the initially testing and questions I had donned a jacket of strength of will. The surgical biopsy had brought out the boots of determination. I would walk this journey and see it to the end. when the biopsy showed cancerous it was time to get serious. Winter’s winds were blowing, but I was not to be swayed. After my surgery I dressed in the armor of one going into battle, preparing for the treatments to come.
By now, the colors had every one faded to brown, most leaves haven fallen from the trees covering the cold, barren ground. Ever so often you would see a tree that had retained its leaves. I remembered hearing that some trees held their leaves so that the wildlife would have a place to find shelter from winter’s cold and snows. I was going to need to seek out those special places for shelter during the coming winter season.
Since my becoming a so-called adult, winter has never been my favorite time of year. Truth be told, I dislike the cold as much as one can dislike anything. Even that remembered fun in the snow is short lived when one has to attempt to drive in the mess around others who have no practice in the activity. Winter is a bland, grey, occasionally white time of year where color is sparse, I feel trapped inside wrapped in blankets and extra clothing. Breast cancer was my time of winter. The colors of laughter, song , and fun were shrouded in the extra layers of worry, fear, pain and concern over the unanswered questions. For me, winter is a lonely time, I spend most of the season hiding in the house. During my battle, I spent most of the time exhausted. Radiation treatments were deleting all of the energy that I had and replacing it with a tired feeling so extreme that it was all I could do to put one foot before the other. Every time I stretched out on that table and watched that monster of a machine move into position I closed my eyes and made ready for the cold reality. They were flooding my breast with radiation, supposedly one area, but could one be sure? How does one confine snow to one area? It is not a possible reality at this time, so how could confining radiation to one area be fully possible? Each treatment brought colder times, each moment on that table less color- how I longed for the warmth and color of spring. I hated the silence, I hated the loneliness, I so disliked the drab grey times and days.
The day I had my final radiation treatment I walked slowly from the building, certificate of accomplishment in hand. It was accomplished, I had finished all of my radiation treatments. Winter was ending. It was however going to take a long while for spring to fully arrive. As the flowers slowly poke their first buds from the ground so did my strength return. The flowers of spring depend on the sunlight and rain, I depended on rest, good foods and exercise. The plants depend on fertilizers, and pruning, I depended on the love, prayers and closeness of friends. As spring’s warmth and color returned, as life in nature renewed, so did mine.
My battle, my season of winter in the year of 2008, not so long past that I have forgotten. Not so close that it disturbs my rest and thoughts. As winter returns, will my cancer? That I cannot say, but I do know that as one prepares for difficult times in the cold, so I have prepared to better my health. When freezing temperatures threaten one stores up water, fuel for heating, foods easy to prepare in case of power outages. I have removed the bad things from my diet and saved up the good. Processed foods is out and whole natural foods are in. Sodas are out and water is in. Exercise and stress relieving acts are in. Will the winter of cancer return? I hope and pray not, but if it does, I will be much better prepared and understanding of what is to come.
One thing that I did while fighting was join forces with the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life. I have learned much, made new and good friends and helped, in what ever ways I am able in the fight to end cancer. Relay welcomes everyone. It is a joining of forces, a joining of friends. We walk, we laugh, we raise awareness and money. Please find a Relay event to participate in. If you can’t find a Relay in your area and would like to help you can always donate to the ACS on my profile page here: