10 August, 2009

Surviving Cancer Isn’t JUST About Your Body - Not For Me, Anyway

I've been thinking about 17 years ago - imagine that, a full 17 years since I had cancer - when I was in that support group at the Woman’s Health Center in Vernon. The American Cancer Society had sponsored a 16-week class for patients and survivors and their friends and families - anyone, really…

They'd bring in presenters on all kinds of topics: the proper way to walk with a cane, how to use makeup and wigs while going through treatment, planning for death in terms of money and funeral arrangements - you name it, they talked about it. Nothing was off limits.

Occasionally the speaker would be one of us, one of the survivors. And on one particular evening, this one particular woman spoke and now, 17 years later, I can still see her face - her beautiful, healthy, vibrant face, framed by thick, wavy brown hair which she laughingly assured us she had NONE of just two years prior. And I can hear her voice as if it was yesterday.

She’d gone through skin cancer and was telling us about the very first symptom she was aware of: her skin itched. A lot. She told us, “Don’t get nervous, ladies, I’m not talking about the kind of itch you get from a little bit of dry skin. I’m talking about an itch that you couldn’t scratch with a crowbar!” And I remember thinking, in the midst of my fear and my grief and my pain, “Wow, what a great description - sure wish I'd have said something like that.”

And then I scolded myself for thinking that. I mean, here’s this woman standing before us - and there were a lot of us - opening herself up, sharing her innermost feelings about the worst thing that ever happened to her, about one of the worst things that could ever happen to anybody, and I’m sitting there being envious because I’m supposed to be the woman with the words!


And then I just imagined this huge hand coming down from the Heavens giving me a “shoulda hadda V-8” slap upside the head, reminding me: it’s OK, Pamela.

When you come that close to facing your own mortality, believe me, you get it: when it comes right down to it, there’s really not all that much that isn't okay.

And there really aren’t that many circumstances in life where a smile, or even a good old-fashioned belly-laugh, is a bad thing.

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1 comment:

  1. Wow. Great post. You are the woman with the words. Thanks for sharing about your past illness. My mom is a survivor, too. About eight years, now.