Surviving Cancer Treatment and Fear of Reoccurrence

My husband Gary and I drove over the Santiam Pass on our way to a baby shower in Portland. The roads glistened with rain as we sped by Suttle Lake and wound our way through acres of grey and black burned trees.

They were skeletons still standing. Scorched by the Pole Creek Fire years before, it brought back memories of the horizon glowing in shades of orange and red. Some trees had succumbed to the winds and mud slides that finally proved to be too much. There were only a few trees that survived. But beneath the stark, dry ghosts lush green plants grew.

Healing mechanisms began as soon as the ash and embers cooled. Even before I could see it working, the process had begun. Now there’s no doubt healing is happening. The trees will never grow new branches or soak in the sun’s heat but the system bigger then their individual lives kept going.

Chemo is an inferno. It entered my body and burned. It snaked it’s way like fire in the roots of trees causing damage and heat in unsuspecting ways. Parts of me have never healed. My hair is still sparse, reminding me daily of the fires that burned through my body. Hot flashes remind me, no eyebrows remind me, pain in my arm reminds me. I am forever altered, but resilient, slowly healing.

Our second time over the pass, it had snowed. The green below the trees was flocked in snowflakes. The trees look like starving soldiers refusing to leave their post. Eventually they will fall nourishing the soil with their slow disintegration. I’m not ready to fall; not ready for my time to be over. I pray with every twinge, bump and pain that it hasn’t come back. Damn you fear! Damn you memory! Let me live in peace… please.

Kathryn Graves Yoder is a freelance writer and author based in Bend, Oregon. Her work focuses on discovering and recovering from past trauma through the written word.

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