Apologies for this week's hiatus, I was home in bed nursing myself through a bad sore throat. And I wanted to spend a little time reflecting before I wrote this post, because its subject matter touches me at my most personal level. I hope in writing it I will achieve resonance with others who have shared a similar experience, and welcome your comments and your thoughts.
This year breast cancer descended into my mother's life and single handedly deconstructed all my family's expectations for indefinitely gliding through our days safely cocooned in health and happiness. The day of diagnosis is a traumatic and frightening one, where threats of the unknown and fears of mortality-come-too-quickly overwhelm everyone confronted with the news. I cried that whole day, undone with thoughts of "what if?" and "what now?" and "how do I survive without HER?"
But the day after diagnosis, the journey begins, and the diagnosed and her supporters step forward into the next phase, learning all that needs to be about tests and surgeries, treatments and chemos, and how to tie pretty silk scarves with just the right mix of gravity and panache. Months of treatment commence, with regular updates and check-ins, good days and not so, and a buoy of hope hopefully large enough to push back the fearful thoughts, that creep like wolves to wait with snapping teeth outside even the most optimistic of emotional thresholds.
And then suddenly, voila, for those successful with their treatment an end date finally appears. The last chemo is taken, the radiation is complete, and the person is ostensibly "cured." Having beaten back the disease and its attendant demons the survivor and her family and friends must now turn to "life after," and living it to its fullest without succumbing to doubt about whether remission will remain remissed. Interestingly, life after cancer can be in some ways as frightening as life right after it’s discovered – though the fear becomes diffuse instead of acute, and lingers as the subtext of "what if?" beneath every interaction.
But my mom is doing well, and her infallible optimism and determination to fulfill her future goals and live to the ripe old age she deserves, help us all to be particularly thankful during this holiday season that we've still got many holidays left to share with her. Anyone who's experienced breast cancer, or another cancer, personally or with a loved one, will no doubt also say a concerted thanks around the holiday table next Thursday. We want to appreciate the success of living with joy and hope once disease redefines how much life can mean.
To tie all this back into The Equine Reader, I wanted to highlight the work of an equestrian group called "Riding for a Cure," which raises money for the cause in the best way that I can think of. The group brings horse lovers together for a yearly trail ride during which it collects thousands of dollars in donations for cancer research. Please consider, during this holiday period, of donating to this or any one of the many available non-profits that are seeking a cure for breast cancer. It is a disease that strikes without justification, throwing lives into disarray, but it can be overcome, and we are only hoof beats away from doing so. To all those currently living with or fighting the disease, know that our hearts, and our horses, are behind you in the struggle.