There are days etched in my memory from months of breast cancer surgeries and treatment; the day I heard my diagnosis, the first surgery, the beginning of chemotherapy, the morning I woke up with breasts and went to bed without them.
One of those days was September 27, 2008; the day I got my head shaved. I had my first chemotherapy treatment two weeks prior. My hair was starting to come out as I ran my hands through it. It was time to simplify the loss. My hair stylist Lori came to our house and took care of the task for me early that Saturday afternoon.
It felt freeing and vulnerable all at once. We had plans to go out and about post-shaving. Straight on through is best. Life goes on and some normalcy exists. Part of me wanted to stay home, but my family and I needed to get out. We started with taking Sam, six years old at the time, downtown to a fall celebration. I donned the pink cabbie hat I had just gotten and off we went.
Wagon rides were available and right up Sam’s alley since it involved a tractor. We climbed aboard the wagon, joining a younger woman, clearly in a chemo cap, an older woman and two children. Certainly, the other woman in the chemo cap and I noticed each other. We didn’t say anything, however, until the ride was over and we were stepping off the wagon. We spoke for a few minutes and I found out she had been diagnosed with breast cancer earlier in the year too, and had been undergoing chemo for several months.
It meant so much to me on that particular day to cross paths with someone who knew something of what I was going through, knew the vulnerability I was experiencing. We shared an important connection that afternoon, but didn’t share names or anything. The connection was enough.
I thought about this chance meeting from time to time in the next months, but was knee deep in more chemo and then my mastectomies. In the spring of 2009, I went to Sam’s school to pick him up. I noticed the woman from the wagon ride also waiting. Her hair was growing back, as was mine a little.
We struck up a conversation and this time I learned her name is Sara. Her daughter is the same age as Sam, her son younger. Her mom had been with them on that fall wagon ride. Her cancer was more advanced than mine and she would be undergoing treatment for quite some time.
We shared contact information and started to get to know each other. We found out that the month of May, 2008 had us both reeling from the shock of cancer. She is almost exactly 10 years younger than I am, our birthdays 3 weeks apart in the month of July. We shared similar surgery and post-surgery options.
From there, we saw each other at breast cancer support group a few times, got together with our families here and there, and kept in touch. I celebrated the news, five years later, that she was finally done with treatments.
We remember each other’s birthdays, and the true gift of each birthday we get doesn’t escape either one of us. We live in the same town and our paths sometimes cross at local stores. And every Monday night Sara sends me a text encouraging and supporting me in my recovery from alcoholism. I look forward to and appreciate this weekly connection so much. Two diseases have created and worn the path of ongoing friendship between us. Talk about silver linings!
On a recent evening, Sara and I added a first to our friendship. We went for a run together. I have always been a runner. Sara is new to it. I am so grateful we could share a run and get caught up.
Five years of cancer treatment weighed Sara down. It is so encouraging to see her shed cancer burdens in more ways than one.
Here we are, all smiles and cool shades, before heading out on that recent run.