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Life, Cancer and the Color Green

Green can be a beautiful color full of life, but it can also be the color of chemotherapy.
The leaves have quietly appeared, fresh and bright. And the grass is the color of neon green. On Saturday, liberated from our work week, we walk on muddy trails surrounded by this beautiful forest. All is well.  

The next day, I see a woman in Macy’s with no hair and a greenish face. I think to myself, “I’ve been there.” She is battling a disease that could kill her. She is chemo green. Might as well be army green.  

Why did I get so lucky? It’s been six years since my first fight with cancer and a year since my second. They tell me they got it all. I have to believe them. I ask my oncologist, “What if the cancer is down there, growing.” I point to what’s left of my right breast.

“You’d feel pain,” she says.  

When she’s not curing cancer, my oncologist watches birds. She travels to distant countries in South America and hides in bushes and using binoculars, follows strange colorful creatures with her eyes. I’m sure she wears some kind of camouflage. Some kind of dirty green suit that keeps her hidden so she can get a better look.  

Springtime green, chemo green, army green, bird-watching green.  

Green is a beautiful color, but not when it’s the color of your face, and not when you’re a soldier being shot at. When you’re out in the forest enjoying the foliage or communing with birdies, it’s not so bad.  

The metaphor is old but apt; the cancer patient is at war with the cancer cells that are trying to destroy her. The chemo drugs weaken her; there go her fingernails. Her hair falls out. And (not to be repetitive) her face turns a sickening green.  

Thank God for my oncologist. My funny, silly doctor who says she’s the only oncologist in Akron who will hook up your bra when she’s done examining you. Who tells you straight out, “I am pumping you with poison to kill the cancer.” Who says when your hair grows back curly, “I gave you that curly hair, didn’t I?”  

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Breast Cancer CURE discussion group.
As well as being a cancer blogger, Laura Yeager is a religious essayist and a mental health blogger. A graduate of The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, she teaches writing at Kent State University and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Laura survived cancer twice.
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