Five years. Stuck on my eyes.

Summer is in the air. My fellow bloggers are writing about it.

Nancy’s Point writes about The summer that wasn’t…. I can so relate to that. My fifth summer now since diagnosis, missed the first one with surgery, the second one with side effects of treatment, the third with more surgery, and most of the fourth, last year, with depression. Ah, the long and winding road of breast cancer treatment.

Bringing up Goliath writes about an Old Acquaintance, enjoying laughter and looking forward to things. But scared to jinx it by writing about it. I feel the same. Worried that the ‘good’ feelings will slip away from me if I tell everyone about them.

Chemobabe has been on vacation with her family and writes about Shifting Time, about how tense things become for us all during treatment.

“Time changes shape. Horizons shorten. The Present Tense of crisis is fueled by adrenaline, colored by anxiety. There is so much to worry about. Health. Money. Health.”

I didn’t know the ‘Present Tense of crisis’ would last so long. But it has. I only recognise that it’s been so tense particularly now by the absence of it.

And both Katie at Uneasy Pink and Anna at The Cancer Culture Chronicles are having summer breaks and have suspended their blogs for a few weeks, although Anna has just resurfaced and posted an extremely personal piece about herself.

And how about me? I seem to have slipped easily into summer this year. Heck, I seem to be actually having a summer this year!

And it’s happened again. Happens every year, usually around July. A sense of profusion in plants and flowers. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. Walking to the allotment in the summer evening I am struck by it.

The red poppies on my neighbours plot are gorgeous. The day lilies have started their flowering, orange and showy. The phacelia is full of bees. Bee busy. Nigella, blue star-like flowers emerging. The jasmine is out, scrambling over the trellis and the clematis too, purple and gorgeous. The cucumber tendrils are perfect. And the pomegranate, not just one fruit, but six this year! The water lily opening in perfection, growing in a large bucket. Purple geraniums self-seeded everywhere on the path. And I didn’t do anything, they just come. Every year.

I’m recently back from a trip to the US; the tedium of travel that I  dislike so much, security, passports and jetlag. But doing ordinary summer things with a friend. Collecting stones on beaches, eating ice cream, swimming in the sea. You know, ‘normal’ holiday stuff. Giggling like school girls, taking a trip to New York Botanic Garden. The heat and the noise of the subway, my first time in New York City. Shopping together. Trying out the whole range of a new line of chocolate. Cooking together. Picnics and pizza. Laughing. Sunshine. Fun. ‘This is what we should blog about,’ we say. Easy. Doing ordinary things. The luxury of ordinary. I appreciate it so much.

Back home now and I feel… different. Is it the contrast that is so sharp… that happiness feels better when it’s contrasted against depression?

I feel the smell in the air. It’s camping season. Reminds me. Dry. Tent. Grass. Flip flops. A feeling of letting go, of summer, of camping, picnics, of not worrying… or trying not to. Me and Ronnie dancing in the living room and laughing so much I cried in sheer joy. Sheer joy. I feel greedy for this. I want to snatch it and keep it. Forever.

And then a routine appointment with one of my cancer doctors last week, although I wish of course that I did not have routine appointments with a cancer doctor. That even though they are less they still come round quickly. He says that we can think about ending my treatment next June, that it will five years since we started the adjuvant treatment. Five years. Stuck on my eyes. He says there is no evidence of disease. Oh, that I could dare to allow myself a sense of safety, of feeling glad that treatment will end for me.  A sense of ‘end’, a break, a finish, some space from ‘it’. I didn’t know that breast cancer would steal so much of my life. And this signals a possible pause, a break. A grasp of peace? Maybe?

As I walk home from the allotment I am accompanied by Elton John and Leon Russell happily singing ‘Gone to Shilo’ from The Union. The gospel choir walks behind me. Children play in the park. Profusion is everywhere.

Ah yes, this is what being alive feels like. More of that please.

29 thoughts on “Five years. Stuck on my eyes.

  1. Sarah,
    This was a perfectly beautiful post. You’re such a good writer. It’s amazing how the simple things of ordinary life become masterpieces after cancer treatment: Ice cream, flip flops and walking on the beach. While I’m finished with my adjuvant treatment and have already experienced the joys of summer like you are now, this is my summer of grieving, depression and longing for my last summer with James. I want to take in the beauty of the day lilies and the geraniums, but I’m still focused on the empty chair in the living room. I long to be where you are, soaking up what it feels like to be alive.


    • Brenda, sigh, I know… I’ve wanted to be here for ages as well…. sometimes we just have to wait for this to come in its own time, we can’t force it. Maybe that’s why it feels so special? Best, Sarah

  2. Sarah, I (and too many of us) know all about the summer (spring, fall, winter) that wasn’t…. and too well about being afraid to jinx any good news/times by talking about them (although I don’t believe in jinxes, or at least thought I didn’t), and although I detest living this way, even when it’s way way way in the back of my mind, it’s there: the waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    This is my second summer since treatment and I’m seeing it with big eyes. I must preface this by saying, I was a primary caregiver for a dear friend who died of pancreatic cancer 13 years ago, and it completely changed the way I looked at the world… so it’s not like I’ve been walking around unaware. But this summer, my first summer feeling “normal” since cancer, the greens are greener, the joy is bigger, the bird song can quite literally bring me to tears with its beauty.

    I had heart impairment (my cardiologist refused to call it damage) from treatment. Recently had some tests run to see where it was at — and lo and behold, my ejection fraction was higher than it was pre-chemo! Everything was super. And my cardiologist looked at me with a funny grin and said, “I’m letting you go. You don’t need a cardiologist any more. Call me if you ever think you do and I’ll be glad to see you, but you don’t need me.”

    I was in shock, I was elated, I was dancing from the roof for hours after. It NEVER occurred to me that I would not see a cardiologist for the rest of my life. After I came back to earth, I started thinking: every time I go to the dr. now, even if it isn’t in the front of my mind, in the back of my mind is the idea that I’m just going to get bad news (even though I’ve had a lot of good news since cancer). I’ve never been like that, the person always expecting bad news, and I don’t like it, and for the most part it is way way way back there and not part of my daily thinking — but I suspect it’s part of the package of having lived through cancer diagnosis and treatment and will be there for the rest of my life.

    Still, like you said… Life is good, and how wonderful that is! “The luxury of the ordinary. How I appreciate it.” “Sheer joy. I feel greedy for this. I want to snatch it and keep it. Forever.” Yes, yes, and yes. A big hug to you, congrats on NED, and go dance Ronnie around the living room again!

  3. Sarah, beautifully done post! I walked with you as you described each summer since your diagnosis. So poignant, so convicting, so real. Congratulations on your latest checkup results. I broke through my five-year point two years ago, stopping my daily pill. At that point the sense of relief washing over me was palpable, although a bit tempered. I wish you a wonderful rest of the summer, filled with carefree days of appreciation for life’s gifts and of love.

  4. Oh Sarah, what a beautiful post. I loved it. What I loved even more was seeing your lovely smile in the picture. You look happy! It is pretty amazing all that cancer does steal from us isn’t it? It takes time and so much more. Sometimes I wonder what this past year would have been like for me if there had been no cancer in it. I wonder what might have been… So glad you had a good appt. A pause, a break, a grasp of peace – that’s what we all long for. Enjoy the rest of summer. Keep ‘snatching’ that happiness! Thanks for the wonderful post and also for mentioning Nancy’s Point.

    • Oh Nancy, what life would have been like without cancer? What a big question. Scary too. Anyway, I am where I am and right now that’s good so I’m going to keep snatching!!!

  5. Beautiful post, Sarah.

    Yes. More life, please. More joy.

    And congratulations on the 5 year mark. I am so pleased. X

  6. Sarah, how very beautiful. I so wish we didn’t live each of these happy days as if it were our last, as if the hammer will soon fall. Let’s just enjoy without the fear of losing it. You sound as if New York was a blast! Glad you enjoyed it. Next time tell me, please! I’d love to actually meet you in person. There is more to us than just blogging. Have a wonderful summer.

    • Yes, Stacey, NY was a fabulous trip.. I didn’t know you were there. Next time eh? As you say, there certainly is more to us than just blogging and it’s good to feel that!

  7. Sarah, I loved this posting. It is so filled with emotion, and I’m sad that your consecutive summers have been such downers. The great thing is that your garden is a reminder of how beautiful life can be. I also love that picture of you….you have a great smile.

    BTW, I grew up near the NY Botanical Gardens in the Bronx!

    • Yup, I’m sad about the miserable summers and the loss of joy too… garden continues to be a delight for me, whether it’s my own or something rather grand like NY Botanical Gardens! Hey, another one from NY then!

  8. For any music fans wondering what Sarah’s on about in the title of this one, It’s a David Bowie quote:
    ‘I heard telephones, opera house, favourite melodies
    I saw boys, toys, electric irons, and TVs
    My brain hurt like a warehouse
    It had no room to spare
    I had to cram so many things
    To store everything in there

    And all the fat-skinny people
    And all the tall-short people
    All the nobody people and all the somebody people
    I never thought I’d need so many people

    Five years, stuck on my eyes…’

  9. Who would have ever thought that “the ordinary” would become a luxury? I love how perfectly eloquent you describe that, and I relate to every bit of it. I too had a summer that wasn’t last year and am making up for it this year, savoring the ordinaryand trying hard to remember what life was like before cancer came to call. Beautiful post.

    • Hi Nancy, thanks for commenting… I love that we are all resonating with the ‘summer that wasn’t’ expression, but sad that so many summers are being missed. Keep enjoying the ordinary… Best, Sarah

  10. Pingback: Weekly Round Up « Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

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