Sometimes, With Cancer, What Goes Around Comes Around

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Whether you expect it to or not, what goes around comes around when it comes to life and dealing with cancer, explains a breast cancer survivor.

From 2011 to 2021, I endured two bouts of breast cancer and their treatments: chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy, as well as two other surgeries and 10 years of Soltamox (tamoxifen). In July of this year, my oncologist “fired me.” That was her cute way of telling me that I was done (theoretically) with cancer.

During this long decade, I received many phone calls from the American Cancer Society asking me to donate money. Ironically, I didn’t give cash.I felt that cancer had taken enough from me – my overall health, my breasts, my confidence as a woman and so many other things. Also, I was an adjunct writing teacher, and I didn’t have much extra money; and, when I got the phone calls from the American Cancer Society, I just wanted to hang up because they reminded me of, you guessed it, my misery with cancer.

Recently, something happened that allowed me to donate to the American Cancer Society.

I’m an avid thrift shopper. I’d been to every thrift shop in our town of Akron, Ohio. I’m ashamed to say that I went thrift shopping almost every day, looking for bargains and shopping for my husband, son and family. My 89-year-old Mom always needed stuff, as did my brother; I’d recently purchased him a used cashmere sweater (for $5). I was the resident shopper.

The other day, I was tired of going to the same old thrift shops. I looked online to see if there was one I’d missed. And there it was, the Discovery Shop, the thrift store of the American Cancer Society, on West Market Street in West Akron. The description of the store was compelling, so I happily decided to embark on a trip there.

I found the shop easily and soon was pouring over women’s items hanging neatly on petite racks – beautiful women’s clothes and many designer duds.

Luckily for me, it was the end-of-the-month half off sale. Almost everything in the store was half the price; the items I liked were all under $10. After looking around, I found a multi-colored Chico’s sweater for $7.50. What a buy!

Moseying around to the back of the store, I saw lovely home goods—dishes, linens, books, games and some furniture. Wow, this place had everything. And all the proceeds went to the American Cancer Society.

I went to the dressing room to try on the sweater, and there I saw them – four oak, wonderfully carved chairs, the style – French Provincial. I’d been looking for chairs for our kitchen for about six months. I thought, “How much were these?” I couldn’t wait to look at the price tag. They were marked $50 each. Could these be half off as well?

I asked one of the shopkeepers.“Are these half off, too?”I gestured to the chairs.

“I’m not sure,” a woman said. And then, she asked her co-worker who affirmed that they were indeed half off.

My heart jumped a beat. I could get all four of these brand-new looking chairs for $100. Immediately, I said, “I’ll take them.”

They kindly put them in the back room for me because I couldn’t get them in my hatchback. I had to arrange their transport to my house.

When I paid for them with a credit card, the woman at the front desk remarked, “If you weren’t going to buy them, I was.”

I giddily left the store.

Driving home, I had a nervous thought.Will they fit under my table?

“Shoot, I didn’t measure them!”

I internally kicked myself. In my zeal to grab them up, I’d forgotten to do the most important thing.

I got home and called my husband and Mom to tell them about them.News passes quickly in my family, and soon my brother knew what was up. Mom had informed him that I hadn’t measured the chairs and that I was a little distressed. My brother Mike offered to drive to the Discovery Shop and measure the chairs, which he did.

Turns out, they were two inches too wide to fit under our kitchen table.

I considered bringing them home and reselling them at a local upscale consignment shop. I considered donating them to Goodwill; I thought for a second about putting them on the curb. Mike didn’t want them, so I couldn’t give them to him.

The rest of the day, I didn’t do anything because I was so irked with myself.

Two days later, I was in the neighborhood of the Discovery Shop. I decided to go in and see if the Chico’s sweater was still there. Plus, there was a necklace that I’d wanted to pick up when I’d been there before.

The sweater was gone, but the necklace was there, and I bought it.

“What is your return policy?” I asked a clerk, thinking about the four chairs.

“We don’t have a return policy. But you can donate back.”

I’d brought a tape measurer with me to remeasure the chairs in case Mike had made a mistake.

I remeasured them in their back room. No, he’d been right. The seats were 21 inches at their widest point. Crap. Our old ones were 19 inches. There was just no way.

And then, something came over me.I thought how I’d always shirked off the American Cancer Society when they called. I thought of how it was only $100, but if I donated the chairs back, someone would buy them, and the Society would make $200.

I’d do it. I’d donate them back.

I went to the front desk and announced, “I’m donating them back to you.”

All the workers smiled. “Great!” they said. One of them, I think, was planning to purchase them.

Doing this made me feel warm inside; I was giving, not receiving. It was a good thing.

I bought the necklace.

“Can I help you put this on?” a woman joked.

“No, that’s OK.”

“Can I take a picture of you wearing it?” It was obvious that she was trying to show her appreciation for my gesture.

I laughed. The American Cancer Society had won.

And so had I.

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