The last time I posted, I came out of the closet and shared that I was diagnosed with breast cancer the week before Christmas, 2104. Thank you for all of the encouraging comments and well wishes. God has been very gracious to me on this journey.
I’m not sure how comfortable I am at this point going into all of the gory detail (and not sure you really want to know that much about me anyways), but I do want to share a few musings and memories I’ve had regarding it all.
I was recently shopping at my favorite local health food store when a memory of shopping there the week I was diagnosed stopped me in my tracks. This store is very familiar to me. I’ve been frequenting the store since the family opened it at least ten years ago. The faces there are very familiar. They know me – they’ve watched my kids grow and our youngest added to the nest – but they don’t really know me.
I felt as if this life-changing, earth-shaking weight was pressing in on me and no one there knew. I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone. But every “How are you today?” that the cashier or juice bar barista asked left me floundering.
My thoughts bounced “How do I answer? Do I lie and say ‘Doing well! How are you?’ as I usually would?” I knew if I said something like “It’s actually been a very difficult week for me. I was diagnosed with breast cancer.” a flood of tears would overtake me and I wouldn’t be able to stop. It also seemed like it could make that sweet juice bar barista who knew me, but didn’t know me, feel helpless or uncomfortable. So, I choked back the tears and replied “Hangin’ in. How are you?” and shuffled on. Never had so much thought gone into such a simple, even robotic, phrase that I had heard and responded to my entire life.
As I began to leave the store, it started to pour down rain. If you’re at all familiar with Florida, you know rain is just par for the course. It could last five minutes and be eye-squintingly bright directly following, OR it could be a downpour that lasts much longer (like a whole 15 minutes – just kidding). This day, it was the latter and seemed to never end. As the rain pelted the pavement of the parking lot and the roof of the store, it seemed as if the weather was expressing what my heart felt at the time. I remember seeing people scurry in and out of the store and watching some sprint to their vehicles with heads covered. Time stood still. I didn’t feel like running. I didn’t care if I got wet. I had cancer. What did it matter?
So I took my buggy full of groceries and walked (not trotted, not scurried, just walked) to my van, unloaded the bags, and walked back to the store to return the cart. I was drenched. Rain was soaking my hair, clothes, and running down my face. I got into my van and just sat there for awhile. One thought kept playing over and over in my mind “I have cancer.”
As I think back on that day, I’m reminded of the huge picture window they have that faced my parking spot that day. I’m sure if anyone saw me, they thought I was certifiably insane. It’s Florida after all, and rain and humidity for a presentable hairdo do not make. I wonder what people must have thought, if anything at all.
“Crazy!” “What is she doing?” “Maybe she wants attention.” “She must enjoy getting wet.”
Perhaps no one even noticed.
I wonder if anyone thought “She could have had some life-changing news or be going through a trial. I’ll pray for her.”
The old adage is true, “You never know what someone else is going through.”
I’m guilty of not noticing as well, and the truth is – we really don’t know many of the people we interact with on a regular basis, nor can we. I hope the memory of that rainy day in the health food store sticks with me as a reminder to be more sensitive to those around me – the strangers I see (and too often don’t see).
Not wanting to end this on too serious of a note, I thought I’d share this video my son and I put together for some young friends getting married. We wanted to give the bride-to-be a formal “welcome to the family” video true to my BIG FAT style.