Interested in learning more and want to read an excerpt from All Of Us Warriors: Cancer Stories of Survival and Loss? Check out the post from Sanctuary Magazine, who selected the excerpt. Sanctuary Magazine is “a place to explore and discover, to grow and reinvent – a quiet space where readers can find beautiful works of art, interviews with those who have made a difference in their communities, articles discussing the latest in women’s health, and a place to share their own ideas and inspirational stories.”
“One of my favorite things to do as a little girl was to pick a stem of goats beard wildflowers with the seed head still intact. I would hold a bloom in my hand, close my eyes, and make a wish, and then open my eyes and blow the white seeds away. Each stem would disappear one at a time, carried off by the wind. As I thought of this experience, I decided that would be another way for me to visualize Mom’s body healing. I sat there in silence with my eyes closed, holding her hand, and visualizing the cancer cells being those seed stems. I made a wish for healing and then blew the seeds away, imagining the wind taking them to a faraway place outside Mom’s body. It calmed my heart to be doing my part in assisting Mom’s healing, and she was calmed by my willingness to participate, learn, and help her survive. Day after day, even after she was released from the hospital, Mom sustained her focus on healing her body on her own and with my help.
After I went back to Austin to resume my college classes, I thought of her each night before I went to bed, and I continued to practice these visualizations. As Mom endured chemotherapy and radiation weekly for the next six months, she suffered many of the humiliating and uncomfortable side effects, including hair loss, swollen ankles, and an upset stomach. While wigs are very common today, and organizations like Locks of Love enable healthy people to donate hair for wigs, they were very hard to find in 1984. We were fortunate to live in Houston, where Mom had access to wigs through MD Anderson Cancer Center. She also reached out to her friends to support her and help her process the physical and emotional impacts of the cancer. She started taking daily walks with these friends around her neighborhood and around Rice University’s campus, near our childhood home. Her friends provided a safe place and supportive ear for Mom to release her anger and sadness about the cancer and the changes she was experiencing in her body.
Her face always lit up when she talked about those walks and how much her friends buoyed her. In doing so, Mom modeled for me how valuable ongoing encouragement and love from close friends is to lifelong health. Around the time I graduated from college, Mom successfully completed her chemotherapy and radiation treatments and moved into remission with grace and reverence. Her hair grew back gray and wavy—a big change from the coal-black, straight hair we had known growing up. Since the cancer was late stage and had spread to so many of her lymph nodes, the medical protocol was to check her body regularly to make sure the cancer did not show up again. So, for fifteen years following the official start of her remission, Mom endured painful bone marrow and liver tests every six months. She would go off quietly to those appointments, without ever drawing attention to the experience, the pain she endured, or the process. She was so very strong and determined to live a long life and share it with the people she loved, minimizing any discomfort or pain she may have been feeling……..”
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