Counting blessings from a summer I didn’t want
Updated: November 2, 2011 2:54PM
The summer of 2011 is one I wish had never happened, but that I will never forget.
While most of America was planning Memorial Day picnics, I was recovering from surgery and preparing for the first of six chemotherapy treatments. As people gathered to watch the fireworks for the Fourth of July, I was at home, battling the fatigue and nausea that comes after each chemo session.
I lost a lot this summer — my annual trip to the Iowa State Fair, the chance to cheer on my daughter as she biked across that state, and the opportunity to accompany my son as he searched for the right college. And then of course, I lost my hair.
But I also gained a few things while on this unexpected and rather unpleasant journey through breast cancer.
For one, cancer has cut significant time from my morning routine. And while I certainly will welcome back my hair, I have come to enjoy the ability to shower in five minutes or less. With no hair to deal with, getting ready for the day is quick and easy.
The sleeplessness that comes with my cocktail of drugs has caused me to rediscover my love of reading. Years have gone by when I haven’t finished a single book, but I’ve devoured several over the last couple of months. There’s little else to do in a quiet house at 4 a.m. and I’ve welcomed these literary diversions.
I’ve also gained a new appreciation for life’s smallest pleasures, not the least of which is the ability to enjoy food. Chemo drugs rob people of their taste buds, turning favorite foods into something horrible.
I can’t even remember what some foods taste like now. But when this is over, I’m betting they will taste better than ever, and I will appreciate every last bite.
My eating habits, reading habits, sleep cycle and hair all will likely return to normal once my treatment is done this fall. But other changes, I hope to hang on to.
I hope to never again doubt the importance of the smallest act of kindness. I’ve come to realize this summer the difference that a simple gesture can have on someone’s day, their mood and their outlook. Countless times over the last few months I have been cheered by things as simple as a note in the mailbox or a telephone call. I hope to never again think that sending that get well card isn’t important, or that I’ll call tomorrow, if I get the time.
My cancer also has brought me even deeper into my faith. And that’s a place I would like to stay.
I’ve always been a faithful church-goer and active in my parish, but I’ve never felt closer to my Creator than in these past months. In the weeks before and after my surgery, I was flooded with people telling me they would pray for me, and I felt those prayers. They gave me courage, strength and confidence that, like so many women before me, I too would make it through this experience.
So while some lament these last days of summer, I can’t wait for those leaves to fall from the trees. Because as the branches go bare and the flowers die in preparation for winter, I will be coming back to life as I once knew it. But not exactly. Maybe a little better.
Sandy Illian Bosch is a staff writer for The Doings.