Just as the seasons come and go, so do life changes after breast cancer.
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
There’s a breeze rustling through the trees and the temperature outdoors has significantly lowered over the past few days. Change is coming. Leaves on the trees turn into brilliant shades of reds, oranges and yellows. Now that we’ve entered the month of October, I’m reminded that the holidays are just around the corner. Where did this year go? It seems the older I get the faster time is flying. The seasons come and the seasons go, just like clockwork.
Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year. Although nature seems to be in the process of dying, preparing for the dormancy of winter, I feel alive in this season. It’s the perfect time of year for being outdoors. Hiking and camping are two of my favorite pastimes. There’s nothing better than hearing the sound of leaves crunching underfoot while traversing a mountain trail or spending time with loved ones in front of a roaring campfire.
The changing seasons also remind me of breast cancer. When my breast cancer was discovered, we were in the first week of June. The tail end of spring was almost over and summer was approaching. The weather wasn’t quite hot, but I knew it would soon be unbearable, as Georgia summers usually are. Surgery and my recovery period kept me indoors as healing took place. I felt dreadful and the thoughts of being outside burdened me. My desire to be around others was nonexistent. All I wanted was to be better.
July, August and September were difficult. Those months were sweltering as I spent much of my time in the car on the way to or from doctors’ offices. Summer, usually filled with travel and adventure, became a mundane routine of radiation treatments, physical therapy and visits to pain clinics. Although those things were far from exciting, they became a strange safety net to me.
Winter brought a time of challenge. I’d just completed treatments and was in the process of allowing my body to rest and rebuild itself. Through the cold winter months, I stayed inside huddled beneath a blanket. My body was drained. I felt like a bear in the midst of hibernation. I didn’t go anywhere or do anything. My home was my refuge.
When spring came, and the trees were budding forth with their greenery, I found myself in a season of hope. Treatment was over, I’d had a few months to rest and recuperate and I finally realize it was time to get back to living.
There’s a quotation by the author, John C. Maxwell, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” His words are filled with truth. Each season after my initial diagnosis with breast cancer was filled with some sort of change. As each season came and went, the choice to learn and grow from it was up to me.
During my first-year post surgery, I fought hard to manage and understand all the changes coming my way. My second year brought more seasons of growth as I began to feel stronger and more like a human being again. Now I’m in the third year since I was diagnosed. Instead of dreading the seasons as they come and go, I look forward to them. No longer do I feel like I’m in an active fight for my life, although I know I am. My perspective has changed.
The revolution of the seasons will continue. And just as the seasons change, so will I. Every spring, as the new leaves unfurl, I’ll be reminded that my life, too, is blossoming with newness. Summers will now be spent savoring day-to-day experiences, for life is short. Autumns will be a time of shedding the old and making way for the new to come. And winters will be a time of introspection.
Just as our lives changes, so do the seasons. Some seasons are more difficult than others. Although each season only lasts a short time, it’s important to remember change is coming.
As I look out my window, I see the Dogwood trees have donned their fall color. Tiny red berries cluster at the center of each grouping of leaves. On the ground, a blanket of dry leaves have already formed. Winter will soon be here and this year, I’m looking forward to celebrating it. I’ve already reserved a cabin in the mountains. We’re planning on ice skating, sledding and enjoying hot cups of cocoa.
I’d like to leave you with one last quote – “When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves,” by Viktor E. Frankl.
Breast cancer came into my life and turned it upside down and inside out. I had no control. But, I do have control over how I grow and move forward in the next seasons of my life. And I intend to continue moving forward.