While at co-op today, I had this sudden urge to get outside. I’m not sure why. I just needed to get some air and enjoy fall before fades to winter. I love to hear the crunch of the leaves under my feet and see the colors. There is a beautiful half mile meditation trail on the church’s campus that winds through part of the woods on the property. As soon as I got to the woods I felt a sense of peace.
About halfway through my walk, I was struck by two different trees. One tree was still in a blaze of yellow, orange and red. It was spectacular. The tree next to it was covered with dried up brown leaves which were desperately clinging to the branches. It was then I began to wonder what kind of leaf am I?
I am by no means in the winter of my life, but neither am I in spring. I’m guessing I’m in that early September, still hot but the nights are beginning to cool off. I am wondering, though, if I am like the first tree ablaze with glory or if I am like the second, just clinging onto what I can until I inevitably fall back into the throes of cancer.
I still feel fragile, like those leaves desperately clinging to the tree in hopes I won’t fall off to be crunched underfoot and swallowed by the inevitable snow. Every ache and pain scare the crap out of me. I hesitate to make any plans beyond a month or so. What if I’m in chemo? What if I have to have more surgery? What if all my tests have been wrong and I’m not here? The Beast has a tendency to worm its nefarious fingers into your psyche and won’t let go. You almost have to physically go toe to toe with it and pry its clammy claws out of your heart and soul. It’s a constant battle and some days you’re more ready for it than others.
I’ve spent the last year marking time. Counting days until my hysterectomy. Counting days until I could go home from the hospital. Counting days between doctors’ appointments and procedures. Counting days until chemo started, then the days between treatments. Then you count down the chemo treatments until you finally finish. Everything revolves around a date. When you’re done, you start marking time in ways that sound something like this. “One year ago today, they found my tumor.” Or, “One year ago today, I started chemo,” which was, in fact, this past Saturday. Like obsessing about tumor marker numbers, you begin to obsess about dates and time. It moves and stands still all at the same time.
In a way, I’m jealous of those brown leaves. At some point, they will realize it’s okay to let go. They will float gently in the wind and return back to the earth that gave them life. I need to give myself permission to let go of the dates and the numbers. I need to accept that ovarian cancer isn’t who I am, but it is a part of me. I will always be a patient of my oncologist. I will always have to be vigilant since no one does that for you. And I will always be forced to try to beat back the Beast. It makes itself known to me every day in numb fingers and feet, achy joints, and, on days like today, achy areas from the surgery. I hate all the drama that seems to come with being a survivor, yet it’s part of surviving.
So, I will choose to be dazzling – as dazzling as a 49 year old woman with salt and pepper hair can be. While I can, I will be a brilliant leaf showing my splendor. I still have work to do. I have two children who need a Mom and a husband who needs a wife. My mom still wants her daughter and I have a dear friend who was there for me during my chemo. Now it’s my turn to be there for her.
I think God gives us fall to remind us that even when things are about to go down the toilet, which is how some people see winter (I fail to see why, it has it’s own special charm), there’s good and bad. Spring’s arrival brings new birth and gives way to the mosquitoes and humidity of summer (you can see I am a heat wave hater), which turns to the colors of fall and the crystal blankets of winter. Life isn’t a rotation through one set of seasons, it’s a continual cycle. We all go through multiple springs, summers, autumns and winters. It just depends on where we are. Sometimes we spend more time in one season than another, but we do get to experience all of them.
I’m thinking it’s okay to be like the leaves, even the brown ones. It’s time to let go of what happened last year and move on to what lies ahead. The leaves are changing and so am I.