Thursday, May 30, 2013


This tree is hundreds of years old - Poland 2012
So here I was in January already.  A new year had started and I had only one more treatment left to get through.  Although it was kind of a whirlwind since finding the lump in June, each day seemed to go by very slowly.  I spent many days lying in my bed in my room over those chemo months.  I always stared at the tree outside my bedroom window because I could see the branches when I was lying in my bed.  There was so much going on outside my window when I was stuck inside.

Fall Colours - Russell, ON 2009
The tree outside my window was full of green leaves when I was diagnosed with cancer in August.  As autumn approached I spent many days watching the leaves change colour and start to fall to the ground.  It might seem kind of weird but that tree became somewhat of a friend to me.  It was also a source of inspiration for me.  It was a reminder that there are changes in life that might just be for now and not forever, like the seasons.  Sometimes we might find ourselves in a cold, dark place in our lives but like winter, it will eventually disappear and the warmth and the sunshine come back into our lives.

I remember when almost all of the leaves were gone off the tree in the fall.  At one point there were less than ten leaves left.  I watched those leaves and found myself cheering for them to hang on.  “Hang on little leaf.  You can do it.  Be strong.”  These were the top 10 that were left, kind of like watching American Idol I guess.  Eventually I saw that very last leaf drift to the ground and it made me feel so sad.  It was like that was the end of something.

Mike & I - Fall 2010
But then the snow came and the tree looked beautiful with its new fresh white coat.  Now here it was January and the branches were coated in ice.  I was in a cold, dark place at this point so lying in my bed looking at the tree it seemed a reflection of me.  Lonely, desolate and lifeless is how the tree seemed.  Just like me.  I wasn’t at a point that I could see anything but that.  But perhaps I’d missed something.  Maybe that last leaf falling wasn’t the end of something but the beginning of something.  Deep down I knew that no matter how cold and dark it got outside, that tree would somehow have buds on it in a few months.  New life that would grow to be green beautiful leaves once again.  I prayed that it would be a reflection of me then too.  I desperately needed that hope and inspiration.  Spring seemed impossibly far away from this cold, dark place I was in now.

I was coming to the end of the chemotherapy treatments.  Finally.  Although the last treatment was scheduled for February 1, it wasn’t over on February 1.  I still had the usual weeks that followed that would leave me feeling crappy.  I wanted to get it over with but I had to summon my strength each time because I knew that it would be needed.  The thought of the way I would feel after the treatment was really daunting.  Imagine something that has happened to you in your life that really hurt or that made you feel really sick or that caused you pain.  You got through it right?  But imagine knowing that after you started to feel a bit better you would have to go through it all over again except this time it would be worse than the last.  That’s kind of how the chemo was for me.

I also knew that after the chemo was done there would be the next set of challenges.  Surgery was coming up in early March.  That wasn’t very far away.  It was kind of scary to know that was around the corner but I couldn’t think that far ahead yet.  I was trying to get through one day at a time for now.  That’s all I could do.  My strength was fading.  You know what was really exhausting?  Pretending.  I don’t know how many times I pretended I was fine.  I was okay.  Sure yes I feel not too bad.  Oh don’t worry I’m fine.  I didn’t need people worrying about me.  I didn’t want to bother anyone with how I might be feeling.  I wanted my kids to think I was okay.  Maybe just a bit tired but not so bad.  I didn’t want Mike to slow down on his MBA or his work and mostly I didn’t want to be the cause of any stress for him.  I really just wanted to act like everything was okay. 

Tall Trees - Jasper, Alberta 2009
Pasting on a smile and going deep within to draw out some positive energy and strength to get through a visit, an event, a phone call, a meal, homework, etc…was draining.  Pretending is tough.  Acting is tough.  I really don’t know how well I did with it.  Maybe I wasn’t fooling anyone but myself.  Who knows?  But if it did lessen the stress for the people I love then it was worth it.  Sometimes I would go to my room and crawl into my bed and just escape into sleep.  Collapse actually.  I couldn’t focus to read.  I had a hard time carrying on a conversation.  I sometimes just stared blankly at nothing.  I knew I was doing that but was powerless to do anything about it once I’d used up my strength reserves to get through the pretending.

I looked forward to the day that I would be outside my window looking up and thanking that tree for being so sturdy and strong and for getting me through each season.

Outside My Window - Sarah Buxton & Jedd Hughes

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