Well, we’ve survived Hurricane Irene. By the time she arrived up here in the upstate New York region, she’d been downgraded to a tropical storm, so all we’ve had is a grey rainy day with some minor flooding in lower lying regions.
Perhaps this is how it feels to those of you who have survived cancer. We hear about it, prepare for it, but when it’s there it’s a whole different ballgame. So then, we are forced to face up to it, endure it and hopefully live to see another day. Of course, there is a huge difference between Hurricane Cancer and Hurricane (Insert Name). Hurricane Cancer does not just attack one region or people, it is global. It does just come and go in a matter of days or hours, but lingers causing damage and death for days, weeks, even years.
Last week, before all this talk of hurricanes, mom and I went to the New York State Fair. Supposedly, it’s the largest state fair in the U.S. I don’t know, but it’s a late summer tradition that we’ve enjoyed ever since I was a little girl. We went last year when mom was first recovering from chemo and was almost through radiation. Dad was gone and we desperately needed something to distract us, cheer us up, something.
When we went last year, mom was thrilled to see a booth in one of the buildings dedicated to providing information and selling various t-shirts and other things, about breast cancer. We didn’t notice that there weren’t any items for survivors. Perhaps this was because, at the time, we weren’t thinking in those terms.
This year we noticed, or I should say, mom noticed. She wanted something that acknowledged that she was a survivor and there was nothing there. Everything was about fighting or preventing breast cancer, which obviously we both believe in, but there was nothing for those who’d had it and survived. Having cancer wasn’t acknowledged in any way, and certainly without those who have survived and beaten cancer, we have no hope for own survival should we receive a diagnosis nor do we have the knowledge of what that journey is really like.
Even though I was there beside mom during her cancer treatments, I have no idea what it felt like to receive a diagnosis or battle cancer. Mom lives with the reality every single day, that even though for now, she is cancer free, she may not always be. Again, I have no idea what that’s like. I only know that her cancer came without a warning bell or siren. There were no high winds or water, just a slow progression of tiredness that after time, couldn’t be ignored. Cancer is a hurricane that never dies down. You may exist in the eye, but there is always the fear that the storm will return to devastate you even more than it did the first time.
So yes, mom and the other survivors out there definitely deserve their own booth at the fair. Now perhaps there is one; the New York State Fair is huge to say the least. The midway itself is over one mile long. So hopefully when we go again tomorrow with some friends, we’ll find that booth.
Mom already has a survivor bracelet. Ironically, I was shopping with my dear friend Diana, at Michael’s the day after mom and I had gone to the fair, and there was a display of breast cancer decorative items. Among the streamers and pink ribbon decals, stickers and lord knows what else, was a little rubber bracelet that simply said, “survivor.”
Here’s to you, mom and everyone else who has survived the storm. Here’s to those who didn’t make it, but fought, just the same. Here’s to you. Here’s to all of you.