Archive for Thursday, June 18, 2009

Survivor finds support, hope in unexpected place

June 18, 2009

It was not the first time for me to participate in a Relay for Life, it was my first time wearing a purple shirt with the word “Survivor” across my back. I have to say it was one of the hardest walks I have taken in a long time.

Almost as difficult as the day I had my head shaved. I was so upset at having my head shaved that a friend of mine, herself a breast cancer survivor, sent me a book called, “It’s Not About the Hair” that also contained other certainties of life and cancer. I avoided reading the book for a long time. One day recently while undergoing chemotherapy, I took the book along and read it.

I should have read it earlier.

“It’s Not About the Hair” is written by Debra Jarvis, herself a breast cancer survivor. And the book is about more than hair; it is about the journey one takes and the road that family members often walk along, as well.

On Friday night I was going to be brave and go alone. I did not tell my family members I was going to the Relay for Life. It was a mistake. No one, and I know better, should try any part of the cancer journey alone.

I wasn’t alone, I just didn’t know it.

The cancer survivors walk in before a crowd of people and eventually take seats along the track. Before that was a dinner and photo opportunity. I had hoped to fade into the background for the photo op. I wore a yellow ball cap that my great nephew Cameron sent me when I lost my hair.

The photographers used the “yellow ball cap” to locate photo locations. So much for anonymity. Fading into the background is a joke anyway, especially without hair.

After comments by organizers and community dignitaries, the survivors walk a lap around the track. By the time the walk began, I was fighting back tears. Walking alongside Pete, I made it around the track, my heart tucked inside a heaving chest.

I walked to the side of the track to gather myself, felt someone step up next to me, slip an arm around my waist and whisper, “I am here.”

I am here.

We are here.

We have made it this far. Our journey confirms for us that we are not alone. That those whom we love and those we do not know take the walk with us, stand with us when we least expect it, buoy us up when we grow weary, offer support and encouragement when we need it most. It is all about the journey, and those who take it with us.

You are not alone, she said. I am here.

And she was.


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