How Blizzards and Cancer Are Similar

Jane Biehl Ph.D.
Jane Biehl Ph.D.

Jane is a ten-year survivor of a very rare form of cancer Myelodysplastic Syndrome. She has enjoyed several exciting careers including a librarian, counselor, teacher, and writer. She loves to write about surviving cancer, overcoming hearing loss, and her hearing ear service dog, Sita.

A cancer survivor recalls how a book quote about a blizzard became a metaphor for her own experiences with cancer.

What do blizzards and cancer have in common? I was recently reading a novel by one of my favorite authors, Louise Penny, titled “Kingdom of the Blind.” I came across a quote that slapped me in the face like the sharp daggers of a blizzard wind.

In the story, a huge blizzard had swept through the Québec area, which was overwhelming even for an area so familiar with storms. Penny describes the falling snow, the biting cold and the imminent danger of getting caught in a blizzard that comes up too suddenly. She mentions that the beauty of a snow-covered landscape can be deceiving to those not familiar with the harsh reality of these storms. If an unaware child or adult gets caught suddenly, they can freeze to death in minutes. This blizzard was so raw that the electricity was knocked out for miles around.

The author then says the older people living in Québec are wise enough to get back home. She states, “And (they) watch the blizzard from beside a cheery hearth, with a hot chocolate, or a glass of wine, and a good book. While there are few things more terrifying than being outside in a blizzard, there are few things more comforting than being inside. As with so much in life ... it was a matter of inches between safe and sorry.”

I thought immediately about us cancer survivors. We are constantly either in or out of a blizzard. We may be at the cancer center receiving chemo that inevitably makes us ill but is the only means of survival. We may be finished with treatment and finding comfort in our safe little cocoon for now. We may be cured or have no evidence of disease. We may be in remission and grateful. The manifestation of the cells in our body determines which side of the blizzard we are in.

This quote reminds us life is like this in many ways. We may get up to go to work or school feeling fine, and someone driving carelessly can cause an accident that will change our life forever. We know that life is tenuous, and a disease, an accident or a brain aneurysm can result in a life being ended, or never being the same again.

We need to appreciate the comfortable days and know we are safe and sound. These are the days that help us when life becomes more dangerous. So let’s go have that cup of coffee, look outside, be comfortable and be thankful!

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