Friday, March 10, 2023

The Winter of My Life

 Life has changed so much for me. Every previous trauma could be held at bay by what some would call moxie, but as time progresses, I find it harder to remain free spirited. For example, as a kid I got locked in a tiny camper closet for hours. Being babysat, I sneaked away from the house in search of cherry taffy. But when the camper’s closet door sprung shut, I'd been trapped, sweating in that minuscule space...sucking cherry flavor off my fingers in the darkness as my family frantically searched. And I'm lucky they found me. I'm not sure how much time passed, because I'd cry and fall asleep, then cry and fall asleep again. Despite this, I'd never been claustrophobic. Instead, I turned into a risk taker who enjoyed cliff jumping and spelunking. I loved taunting death.

But now after cancer treatments, simple things send me into a frenzy. Boarding a plane feels beyond terrifying. Elevators are a death trap. And just visiting a hospital makes me relive numerous visits, like when I got strapped to a bed after having a 9-hour tumor surgery.

Once laughable thoughts race through my head: I’ll never get off that plane. I’ll be stuck in that small place forever. I’ll undergo radiation, infusions, and surgeries…for nothing.

I never tell these thoughts to ANYONE, especially my children—who I hope are deluded into thinking I'm strong. But if you see me taking deep breaths, chances are I'm quaking inside.

I don't expect you to understand this. I never would have, before cancer...

I finally decided to voice these thoughts to someone—anyone. The medical assistant folded her arms, and I immediately regretted my mistake. "You have to get over your fears—because we're all terminal. We're all dying. Stop freaking out about everything. You have to BELIEVE you'll get well."

I looked at her sadly. I hate it when people say "we're all terminal" or "we're all dying" because it minimizes what having terminal cancer is actually like. It's not always about dying, it's about the path cancer patients take to get there. It's hard being sick at a somewhat young age and enduring painful “cures." It's hard being tied to the tracks and SEEING the train coming.

As I looked at her, I realized, we both just want a semblance of control. In the same way this whole experience makes me spiral because as the doctor said, I know how I'll probably die, I "just don't know when," this woman must believe if I'm positive enough, I'll win against the cancer creeping up my backbone like a vine. 

So, what about all of the happy, positive cancer patients who've died before me? They certainly didn't die from lack of moxie.

"I'm doing the best I can," I whispered. "You know, I looked up the meaning of 'beauty' yesterday."


"Beauty...its Greek roots mean 'belonging to the right time or season.'"

She blinked. "What are you trying to say?"

"When something owns its current season—imagine a tree—turning green in the spring, blossoming and bearing fruit in the summer, turning new colors during fall, and even being sprinkled with snow in the winter…it's beautiful. We all live through different seasons during this life. To truly own each one, well, that's a form of beauty. I'm not giving up and giving in. But if this is the winter of my life, I want to embrace it. I'll be vulnerable if it'll help other people know they aren’t alone. I might get better and I might not—THAT is the truth. And embracing this season, according to ancient Greeks, is beautiful."

"I don’t understand,” she said. And I'm glad for that. I don't want her to comprehend the sobriety of personally having stage four cancer. I stared out the office window as she left. 


This season isn’t easy. I know God has a plan, but that doesn’t mean I always like it. Despite how I wouldn’t have chosen this exact path, cancer has helped me see that even the winter of life can be beautiful. And for that fact alone, I am truly grateful.

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