Cannoli Monday: Life After Cancer Can Be Extra Beautiful


One survivor reflects on life after cancer on "cannoli Monday."

There wasn’t any place I’d rather be. I could have millions of dollars and everything I could wish for, and nothing would be better than where I was then.

On Dec. 23, 2019, I was sitting in an Italian bakery in Narragansett, Rhode Island, eating a mini cannoli, drinking a delicious cup of black coffee and waiting for my son and husband to return from a walk they were taking at the Narragansett Sea Wall, a stone wall that runs along the Atlantic Ocean.

I had decided not to join them because I had a little last-minute Christmas shopping to do, which I’d just completed, and now it was coffee break time. Wool socks, Crabtree and Evelyn creams, silk headbands and boxes of chocolates sat in bags next to me. We were on vacation, visiting my husband’s family for Christmas in Rhode Island.

Four ceiling fans whirred above me, a nice feature, cooling the hot bakery even in winter. I was alone in the place and I was so happy. The only drawback was the breast prosthesis pressing on my scar tissue on my right breast, a reminder of a cancer four years ago. I was racing to my “five-year out” mark, and I couldn’t wait. I wanted to stay alive, wanted to live for sweet moments like this "cannoli Monday" — alone in an East Coast Italian bakery, where my niece, through marriage, had worked her high school job.

Sadly, my niece's Uncle John had just passed away from a six-year battle with colon cancer. The funeral had been a few days ago and we’d just missed it, but we had viewed the video my brother-in-law had made, a film done to Eagle’s music, “Take It Easy,” displaying a smiling John living his life in utmost joy.

Cancer touched us all in some way. My best friend has just informed me that her friend, Beth, had stage 1 breast cancer and that I should pray for her because “the prayers of the righteous will save us.” I must have been righteous.

And then, there was my editor’s cousin, Beverly, with stage 4 cancer in her liver. She held the family together hosting family dinners, holiday parties and birthdays. I knew Beverly might outlive many of us based on good karma.

My editor had another person in his life who was struggling with cancer: his beloved friend Monica from his college years was dealing with stage 3 ovarian cancer. Monica was one of the kindest women I’ve ever met; it happened to the best of them.

Cancer was everywhere, but it was "cannoli Monday," and I was free of it, at least for the time being.

If I could just freeze time. The Hallmark Christmas Channel would go on playing Christmas movies forever and ever. The Italian pastries behind the glass in the many sparkling cases would never grow stale, my coffee in my paper cup would never be depleted, and I’d stay alive until the end of time.

But that was overkill, I knew. Everyone had to die. It was just a matter of when.

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