I think many of us living life beyond cancer tend to start counting. We count birthdays, months, years, doctors’ appointments, mammograms and other tests that mark our lives beyond cancer. We get past the first birthday since our diagnosis, the first mammogram since our treatment, the first “fill in the blank” and we breathe a sigh of relief and keep moving.
One of the many things I count is summers. Previously, summer meant simplification necessitated by sun and heat – a literal and figural stripping down to the basics of life. But the summer of 2009, my summer of cancer, was anything but for me. That summer fell smack between my mastectomy and TRAM flap surgery of April and September’s second reconstructive surgery. I was in the thick of my personal treatment battle. All I remember are disability and complications, fatigue, isolation and anxiety. My body image was crushed and I was still trying to process those three little words, “You have cancer.” It was by far the worst summer of my life – even outstripping the summer of 1984 for that title, which involved studying for two bar exams, breaking up with my boyfriend and battling longstanding family dysfunction.
Last year, the summer of 2010, was one of the best of my life. I was joyous, if for no other reason than that I was one year beyond the summer of 2009. I could see progress, or even better, I could feel progress. I was regaining balance through the gifts and losses list. There were still negatives, to be sure. But I was also appreciating the gifts of cancer and letting myself celebrate them as fully as I had mourned the losses.
So, I don’t want to dwell on the summer of 2009, I only bring it up to remind myself how far I have come in just two years. To celebrate, I looked for quotes from inspirational people. They sound like they know a lot about living complicated lives and looking to the gift of summer’s simplicity for balance. My favorite quote is the first, because in the midst of the summer of 2009, I eventually found my own invincible summer:
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. Albert Camus
Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this son of York; Shakespeare
There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart. Celia Thaxter
One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter. Henry David Thoreau
I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Do what we can; summer will have its flies. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Here is the ghost Of a summer that lived for us, Here is a promise Of summer to be. William Ernest Henley
Summer afternoon - Summer afternoon... the two most beautiful words in the English language. Henry James
The summer night is like a perfection of thought. Wallace Stevens
Happy First Day of Summer! Please let me know how you celebrate your milestones and how far you've come down the cancer pike.