Cherry blossom hunting
The annual trip to the oncologist comes around once again, and oddly coincides with an onset of insomnia. I am suffering from very odd dreams that range from being stuck in a typhoon to showing up in class for a test with a pen without ink. I wake up in the darkness catching my breath. I am robbed of sleep, of peace, of self.
The oncologist’s visit will coincide with the annual mammogram too, a necessity for all women who have gone through a cancer bout. I am reminded repeatedly that I must do this for the next three years, because the cancer free five year threshold remains. I go alone this year, no cancer girlfriends, no husband. It gets exhausting asking.
The oncologist who I will call Dr. Jones is great, she’s a straight shooter and she’s the sort of person who appears to see the glass as half full rather than empty, her 100 watt smile has a calming effect. We talk, she checks me over, and she reminds me of the upcoming mammogram. I talk about the insomnia and also share that lately I’ve been a bit blue because I’ve known of at least four young women who have had a recurrence, not to mention numerous posts on my online Facebook groups about young women who lost the battle to the disease. A number of them were younger than me.
“You need to keep in mind that when you were diagnosed you were early stage,” Dr. Jones reminds me. She’s right. I want to believe her, I mean I believe her. “Do you want to talk with someone?” she asks, offering the name of a social worker who specialises in oncology. When she senses my hesitation she says, “Sometimes it helps to talk with someone.”
Then we chitchat about overall health and wellness. Yes, continue to take the vitamins, swim, exercise, drink a bit of red wine, laugh, it’s all good for the spirit and the soul. By the time I leave, I am smiling. Life was short and what would I do if this were my last day on earth? I certainly would not work.
This reminded me of a recent conversation with a young man who suffered from a much more severe case of cancer than I. We met at the young person’s cancer support group, and he told me about the Athletes 4 Cancer ski and surf camp for young people 18-39 years of age. He had attended the Hawaii surf camp and had a blast. The sunsets were absolutely gorgeous. I had been invited to attend last year but declined because of the mountain of work. Now I had a second chance to attend, but feared that it would eat into my studies. “I think you should go to Hawaii and surf, who knows you might even be eaten by a shark,” my new friend laughed. “I was eaten by a shark and I am alive.” I made my decision over our conversation and a beer that I would go. “Go to Hawaii and surf.” Check it off the bucket list.
After leaving the hospital, I could have returned to the rat race, to the Mt. Everest of work, grading, writing and research that never ends, but instead I went cherry-blossom hunting. Here in Washington D.C. it was cherry blossom season, and a friend who is a native of the city, told me that the flowers had reached bloom and would soon fall to the ground. To every season there is a reason. Wasn’t that in a song? I snapped photos of the cherry blossoms with the iPod delighting in their color and beauty, and was proud that I’d caught them before they were gone.