journeys of women with breast cancer

The Iris
Susan Coleman, Vancouver

I have had the same best friend for 47 years.We live 3000 miles apart now. I live in Vancouver and Cathie lives in Montreal. We were both raised in Fredericton, a beautiful little city on the St. John River in New Brunswick.
Cathie was my “Sixer” in Brownies, which meant she was responsible to see my tie was straight, my pin and shoes kept shiny. I am not the shiny shoe type: Cathie is.

Cathie’s grandfather built “Timbers” a summer log cottage on Grand Lake where she spent her summers until grandfather passed away. The cottage was sold. One summer, 25 years later, Cathie was vacationing in the Maritimes with her family and they drove down the old overgrown road to the Timbers. Lo and behold the cottage was for sale. Cathie and her family purchased it immediately. The Timbers had come full circle; it was back in the family. I celebrated Cathie’s 40th birthday there and we marveled at the lovely lake, moonlight, canoeing, the loon calls and the magnificent purple beach iris.

This iris grew in the very rocky shore by the lake. It became our symbol of support and friendship. An Iris is fragile looking, has a root system what goes on forever and they grow up through anything.
Shortly afterward Cathie’s son was diagnosed with a tumour on his rib with an
85% chance it was malignant. I went to a local nursery and picked out the biggest, ugliest and sturdiest iris bulb that I could find. I had it expressed across the country in time for the medical results. Jonathon was in the 15% category and his tumour was benign. Bring out the Champagne!!!

The next big iris event was my diagnosis with breast cancer. Cathie arrived to help, after my mastectomy and in time for my first chemotherapy. I was terrified, but Cathie was strong and wonderful. She took me wig shopping and took care of my three year old. She endeavored to keep me calm.

We drove to my first chemo treatment while listened intently to Bernie Siegle, a guru for cancer patients. We got to the cancer clinic and up to the sixth floor when the nurse came over and introduced herself to us. Her name was “Iris.” An Omen! Cathie and I looked at each other and hugged. It has been six years since that day and I am thriving.

The Iris continues to be our symbol of hope, friendship, support and endurance.
Cathie is still my best friend.

My Old Woman

Laura Fee
Duncan, BC

There is an old woman in my mind. And she is me in thirty years or maybe forty. The numbers don’t matter, except that she is old, and I am not. But I want to be. Someday I want to reach the pinnacle of my life, look back and salute my journey.

I think of her as a soft hand on my shoulder. She is a woman of words and wisdom and warmth. She is a constant presence, a guide; a force that will not be ignored. I’m not always aware of her but like a shadow, she is always there.

If I close my eyes, I can see her. She has silver hair, curly and cropped short to her head. She is lean, but surprisingly strong from years of digging in the garden and dancing on the lawn. Her gently wrinkled face carries more smile lines than frown lines. Each wrinkle is a triumph. The scars that mark her body are faded and silvered and she bears them like a badge, as proof of battles won and enemies conquered.

She has so many stories to tell and will trap anyone willing to listen. She thinks it is a great privilege to bore people with stories of the old days. I remember when, she will say, and if their eyes glaze over, she won’t notice. She’ll be in another place, another time, surrounded by the loved ones, animals and friends that fill her days. She talks about the good old days, but thinks that any day she is alive is a good day.

She is an idea I carry with me, an image to call on when I am scared and feeling the need of a powerful positive force. She was with me while I sat through chemotherapy, veins tired and grey, as I watched first the black then the red liquid flow into me. She accompanied me to the radiation room where I lay, alone and still, willing the machines to do their utmost. She lifted me up when my thin aching body could not take another step.

She helps me believe that I will master that peak and wear those wrinkles. She comforts me, by revealing just a peek at the future. A future with me in it.

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