As the Relay for Life approaches each June, I tend to look back on these last 6 years and now forward as well.
On Sunday, August 27th, 2006 I threw myself a party. This party came two years to the day my doctor, sitting so close, I felt his breath on my face and knew what came next…, “it’s cancer”. The sorrow tore through me, and I thought of my husband all alone in the waiting room who still had a moment to be hopeful. The next several months brought the battle for my life. But this day, two years later was a Celebration. Two years and cancer free. The heavens even cooperated on Party day. There was a hint of clouds to keep the hot sun at bay and a glorious breeze this time breathed on my face and I knew there was hope. Before the party began, there were, forceful winds, reminding me of the turmoil of cancer, but then they soothed into a calming breeze.
It felt funny throwing a party. Lots of Survivor’s guilt. Many of my family lost their war with cancer. And my friend Kim hospitalized with her leukemia returning for the third time. I wore her picture on my blouse to keep her with me and to remember the battles still to be fought. But I was compelled to do this. It was about me and my family. Giving me a chance to hug them. I told them it was a party for me to stand with them and laugh, instead of them standing over me and crying. The party before the “gathering”. I wanted to see who would show up, while I could. I was amazed that after two years some friends still choked up at seeing me. I was overwhelmed and shaken.
I requested everyone to wear purple and a big ol’ purple cake was served, the biggest I could find. All purple except for the big white HOPE written in the center. Some friends apologized for not finding purple to wear, one brought purple flowers. I said, “are you going to give them to me, or are you going to carry them around all day for your purple?” It felt good to laugh at the silliness. Even I had a hard time finding something purple to wear. “Great, I throw a party and request everyone to wear purple and the guest of honor can’t find it?” After four stores though I found a great blouse. It had to be just right “don’cha” know? It made me look sexy, I mean healthy.
The highlight of my day was a guy walking up in dark glasses, purple shirt and turquoise vest (didn’t his Momma teach him anything about colors). I did the classic double take. My very best friend, my compadre, my cohort, who hadn’t been seen since 1979 when I was a 19 year old outrageously wild girl who loved to dance. Here I stood, a much slower 46 year old. Aged from the cancer and it’s harsh treatments. I felt very small as he wrapped his big arms around me and hugged me tight. I said, “what are you doing here?” (he drove a motorcycle over 1000 miles), “you asked me to come and I did”. This friend, a police officer, in front of my husband, my kids and my parents presented me the medal he earned for bravery. He told me, I was the bravest person he knew and he asked me to accept his gift. That day I had felt brave for what I had been through, but I was brought to tears at his gesture of love and knew I hadn’t been so brave after all. That night I laid in bed, looking back over the hellish battle of cancer. I wanted to pull the covers up and cry, to cry for the strength of all my loved ones who stood beside me and helped me fight the war and came back to celebrate this little victory. I’ve come through the fire this time. I don’t know what lies ahead but there is HOPE, one battle has been won and I have a medal to prove it.