The Bond Between Breast Cancer Survivors is Strong

PJ Hamel Health Guide

    "Urgent winter weather message... a major winter storm will bring heavy snow to the region late tonight through Wednesday night... bitterly cold wind chills will continue through this morning... the combination of winds and cold temperatures will create wind chills of 10 below to 30 below zero across the region this morning. Meanwhile... low pressure will move up the East coast spreading heavy snow into the region late tonight."


    This was the message that greeted me at 4:30 this morning, as I Googled my local weather page before heading to the gym. I sighed. Cold car seat, I thought, as I wrapped my favorite soft chenille scarf around my neck and scuffed into my beat-up winter shoes. As I pulled out of the driveway, I did a quick chimney check down the street: smoke going straight up: no wind, less chill. Smoke drifting sideways: light breeze. Smoke gusting and swirling: watch out. Today was a swirling day; looks like the wind chill just might hit that predicted 30 below zero before the storm moves in.

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    Heading into the gym, I held the door for someone behind me, and as our eyes met I recognized a familiar face. Or, familiar eyes; in this type of weather, when you're warned not to go outdoors without covering every inch of skin, oftentimes your eyes are all that show. Emily is a woman I've connected with through our mutual cancer experience. She had DCIS last year, and she's become part of a loosely organized group that meets once a month, on a Friday after work, to drink and talk and laugh... and to support whoever needs it at the moment. Other than that, our paths don't cross; none of us is connected, by work or community or family, except through cancer. So a chance meeting is a happy surprise.


    Emily and I did the quick mutual catch-up. "How's it going, fine, how are the kids?" That routine casual woman friends go through. And then I asked The Question: "How are you doing?" She knew exactly what I meant; cancer survivors always do.


    "I had my first mammogram last week, and haven't heard a thing," she beamed. "And I know I would have heard something right away, if..."


    "Yeah, that's right," I said, before that "if" could dangle too long. We know what "if" leads to. And we don't want to go there. In that split second, with "if" hanging there between us, our eyes met. And we both knew: If it comes back, if cancer returns, I'll be there for you. The women in our Friday group will be there for you. You won't face cancer alone.


    "Hey, I'm going to Florida next week. We're going to check out what retirement feels like," Emily chuckled. I wished her a good trip and we parted, Emily headed for a spinning class, me for the treadmill. And I know as we walked away, we both felt a little bit warmer inside, despite the bitter chill outdoors. "I'll be there for you." Powerful words, even when unspoken. Especially when unspoken, as they usually are between women with cancer. Women who've faced death and have gotten past the panic to that sweet spot beyond, the place where we can simply hold out our hands, and know that someone will grab them and hold on tight till the storm is past.


Published On: February 13, 2007