Autumn and Other Transitions

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Summer came to an end after my cancer diagnosis.

cartoon drawing of cancer survivor and blogger, Suzanne Remington

I love summer. I love fireflies and roses and front porches and ice cream. I love being outside every day, with endless choices of activities. I love the added hours of light. I actually love spring primarily because it ushers in my favorite season. Although fall has its wonderful attributes, the fact that it ushers in winter overshadows the colors, the crisp air and even the pumpkin pies. As a New Englander, I always find the transition from summer to autumn a difficult one for that very reason. Because fall means winter and winter means less activities and more darkness.

Getting a cancer diagnosis was like having my summer end and the fall begin. A kind of fall that was sure to usher in a whole new kind of winter. In fact, at the time, I wondered if my life was entering a perpetual season of cold and stormy and dark.

But even winters have their rays of sun. There is nothing like sitting under my heating blanket during a Nor’Easter, in my favorite sweatshirt and slippers, binge-watching a tv show as the snow piles up outside. And winter means my birthday, which I now celebrate with a new appreciation. Although it is my least favorite season, I will concede to its finer points. And even though cancer is my least favorite attribute, it surprisingly has its finer points as well.

I have non-small cell (non-smokers) lung cancer. Through biomarker testing, it was found that my particular cancer was caused by a mutation of the ALK gene. Because I am Alk+, I get to belong to Alkpositive.org. Alkpositive.org is an amazing group of patients/survivors & caregivers, working together and facing Alk+ cancer with hope. That’s because we focus on funding our own research, and sharing that research and other information. I have learned so much. I highly recommend all cancer fighters to find their own cancer groups. They are good not only for learning about our disease, current trials, specialists. They are also good for making connections. The “Alkies” have various ways to socially connect with each other through Facebook (an art group, writing group, Book Club, Mens group, etc.) These connections are important and fun. They are the light in the winter, so to speak.

I embrace summer and am grateful for every short-wearing, sunglass-necessary day. I get sad when the temperatures start to drop into the seventies, then sixties. That first day when I can see my breath comes as a shock every single year. But I have learned that with winter comes spring, and with cancer comes research. Research that is getting us closer to making lung cancer at least a chronic illness, at best obsolete. I want to be able to live to see that. Until then, I will look for the light in the winter. And I will dream of an endless-summer life.

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Image of Dr. Minesh Mehta at ASCO 2024.