The Stowe Weekend of Hope begins on May first this year, and that’s when I’ll lead my “nearly annual” Walk and Talk for cancer survivors. May first is a holiday in many cultures. In my twenties, I used to dance at May pole dances with contradancing friends to celebrate the beginning of summer on May first, in the Celtic tradition. It was a time of merriment and anticipating spring.
As I write this, my Vermont home is still deeply enveloped by winter’s cold and snow. I was thinking how cancer survivorship has its own peculiar seasons. Although each person’s “weather” may differ, there are seasons that present challenges that seem never-ending, and there can be seasons of renewal and rebirth such as in a recovery that changes us from who we were to someone new.
My own seasons of cancer and cancer recovery seem to include the Season of Strong Coping, when I faced treatment with a courage that now seems, from a distance of eight years, rather surprising. Was I really that strong? I think when cornered by a health challenge, like cancer, we find strength (physical, emotional and mental–and spiritual) that we didn’t know we had.
Then there was the Season of Simmering Anxiety. My treatment had gone very very well, but five years of quarterly testing my biomarkers was exhausting to me. And I also suffered something of a let-down of the previous robustness. Everything seemed difficult: including getting enough sleep and keeping up routine exercise, which I had previously loved and had no trouble with.
After seven years, there came the Season of Celebration: My doctors agreed that I was no longer in need of testing. To me, that was the moment of victory. I had escaped!
At times, now, as I am eight years away from diagnosis, it is hard to remember that the whole of my cancer journey was real. I hesitate to say that aloud because I know when I heard people say that when I was struggling, I somehow felt a weird type of jealousy. It wasn’t really jealousy perhaps. It was a desire to achieve that status some day myself, I guess. And now I have.
It is remarkable how much the body can heal. I try to remember never to assume what others are going through in their cancer journey. So many similarities between our stories can come up, but so can many differences. This year, when I lead the Walk and Talk, I will try to be especially mindful of the fear and suffering that many people have, at some level, during the early or difficult parts of their journey.
May we walk together in celebration of the springtime and find solace in the fresh air and each other’s company.
Peace and strength to you on your journey,