I am a cancer survivor. If you were to look at me I do not think you would be able to tell that I have had cancer. I do not wear any pink ribbons, or survivor pins. I am not sure why not…I think it has to do with cancer defining, consuming my life for the time it did and I guess that continual spot in my mind. But sometimes I wish I did wear a ribbon or something to let people know that I too am a survivor. A little sign of hope.
What do you do when you see a person that is obviously fighting cancer? Do you go up to them and give encouraging words? Do you stare in disbelief or with pity? Do you look away? I find myself having a little fight in my head with Should I go up to them and tell them I too am a cancer survivor or do I just not say anything, look away and say a small prayer?
I found myself having this fight in my head on the plane back from my niece’s wedding. Sitting a row ahead of us and on the other side of the aisle were two women. One was all in pink with a hat and the other woman was healthy. It took me back to my treatment days. I sat there thinking of what to do. It is kind of awkward. You don’t want to assume, yet I never know what to say… Are you in treatment? Are you a cancer survivor? So after quite a mental struggle .. I went to the restroom and on the way back I found my courage. I leaned over and told her that I was a five year cancer survivor and I wished her all the best. She looked up with a smile on her face and told me that she was diagnosed stage 4 breast cancer in 2009 and was now in her brain. They were on their way to Las Vegas to visit a friend. Gail told me that she thought about not traveling, but really wanted to go. I assumed that it was her daughter sitting next to her. Ann handed me a pen and told me of an organization that she started to raise money for Gail. The organization is called Right Side of the Dirt… explaining that the goal is to keep her on the right side of the dirt. Very Creative. The three of us had a nice little chat and I told her I would be thinking and praying for her.
I sat down and felt so good that I made the decision to say something. When they were exiting the plane, I noticed they were pulling a dark green suitcase with the words Elderwood Senior Care embroidered on the bag. That was the company that I used to work for when we lived in Williamsville, New York. I worked for the company for 9 years and each holiday the employees would received a gift with the company name on it. I have a blanket, cooler, duffle bag, umbrella, folding chair and I am sure a few other items. I must have left before the suitcase!
When I got home I emailed Ann to ask her if it would be ok that I write about our meeting and link to her site. I received a response from Ruth, Ann’s sister. As it turns out Gail was their younger sister, not their Mother. Cancer can ravage a person and really takes a toll. Gail had worked for Elderwood since 2001 in their corporate office. I worked for Elderwood until 2003 in a satellite location. I am sure that we must have met each other in that two years.
It really is a small world isn’t it?
cross-posted at marybethvolpini