“Midway along the journey of our life I awoke to find myself in a dark wood.”
In 2007, at 45 years of age, I awoke to find myself in a dark wood, diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I had always been healthy and I had lived a healthy lifestyle so this news came as quite a shock. Messages of concern and support poured in so I started this blog, beginning with this quote from Dante, to let friends and family know how I was doing.
As I processed this news and thought about the road and the journey ahead, I thought about one of my earliest childhood fears….the scene in “The Wizard of Oz” where the apple trees throw their apples at Dorothy. When I was little, I would run and hide behind the curtains during this scene. We had apple trees at our house and they never, ever, threw their apples at me. Apple trees were a good thing and it frightened me to see them behave like this. In the same way, I was shocked that my body would do this to me….I had taken good care of myself. Why was this happening?
I’ve used the Wizard of Oz theme as an analogy for my journey with cancer. Like Dorothy, I entered the woods with good friends and a very special dog at my side and I faced many challenges along the way but I remained strong, I continued on, ever focused on the poppies that I knew I would find on the other side of the woods. Two years later, there is no evidence of disease, the cancer is gone. Other storms have come my way: chemo-induced menopause, epilepsy, an ulcer, an aneurysm, bankruptcy and the toll that all of this has taken on my family. I’ve faced each storm with growing strength as cancer has shown me just how strong I am. There are still many challenges ahead but I have no doubt in my ability to take them on.
Several people have asked recently why I haven’t been blogging as often as I used to. The reason, I suppose, is that these days, one day is so much like the next. As I was battling cancer, I had new things to share but now I’m simply going through the slow process of healing. Due to my seizures, I can’t drive until March so I spend all of my time at home. I can’t eat much and I’m not supposed to drink anything but water so I don’t enjoy food and wine and coffee like I used to. The list of “can’ts” in my life often seems longer than the list of “can’s” but I don’t want to dwell on the negative…I want to continue to focus on the poppies, on the land that I dream of over the rainbow.
This blog has been about my journey with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and today, on my second “Cancerversary”, I want to put that chapter of my life behind me. I will always be a cancer survivor and I will always be eager to share my experience with those who face a similar journey but it’s time to move on. I don’t want this experience to define my life. As I’ve thought about this final blog post over the last few days, I’ve asked myself “where is Dorothy now?” Am I waking in my bed, as I do from a seizure, to see familiar faces but perhaps unable to identify them? Having survived a scary event but now looking at my life from a different perspective and with a different vision of what my life could be. Or, if I look up in the sky, will I see the words “Surrender Dorothy”, a sign that the battle is not yet over? Cancer was the first in a series of storms that have crossed my path over the last two years and I still have serious challenges before me. Both analogies are accurate and today I look back at my battle with cancer as a positive time in my life, a chance to grow and examine my life in a way that I would not have done otherwise.
It’s time to move on; time to focus on rebuilding my life and finding the path that will take me to the land that I dream of, over the rainbow. It’s there, waiting for me, and I have everything that I need to take me there. Like the scarecrow, I have discovered wisdom that comes through faith, a faith that has always been there but which I now appreciate so much more dearly. Like the tin woodsman, I’ve discovered love through good friends who have been there to support me along the way and like the cowardly lion I’ve discovered courage within myself. I’m off now, in search of rainbows……thank you for sharing this journey with me…..