After cancer I turned to gardening, my new found hobby. I had fallen in love with it and I had fallen hard. I adored the beauty of a flower garden. I found solace in the gentle buzzing of insects. I soaked up the sweet aromas wafting through the air. I was hooked.
Each day I tended to the tasks of the gardener–digging, planting, harvesting, and weeding–there was always a need to weed. I did not let a day go by that I did not weed my garden. I hated them. I was frustrated by dandelions with stubborn roots. In spite of my swollen arm, the result of lymphadema caused by the removal of lymph nodes, I pulled and pulled at them. Yet, the occassional weed continued to rear its ugly head.
One evening, after a particularly strenuous day spent working in the garden, my thoughts filled with frustration and I began to cry. Intense angry tears. I wondered what was the matter. Why was I so upset? Why couldn’t I just relax and enjoy my garden?
At that moment it occurred to me why I was so obessed with getting rid of weeds. I associated them with failure, with fear and with cancer. I understood that weeds are invasive, crafty and persistent. Despite my best efforts to the contrary a weed seemed to always stand at the ready hoping to overtake my garden. Just like cancer. Despite my best efforts to remain healthy the disease could hide in my body waiting to overtake my life. How was I supposed to live with that? A furture without any guarantees?
The realization terrified me. Cancer has a way of doing that. Of getting your attention. It is its very own special brand of a wake-up call. So, then, how did I go on knowing that there is a chance that the illness could return? How did I move forward in spite of my fears?
As was becoming my habit, I looked to my garden for answers.
My garden patch taught me that weeds do happen. Amidst the beauty of the flowers they are inevitable. Weeds crop up like uncertainty and invade my thoughts. A gardener can do her level best to keep them at bay–just as a cancer survivor can do her best to remain healthy. Yet, nothing in a garden is perfect and nothing in life is sure. I knew that I had to give up the struggle and accept the unacceptable. I had to live with the knowledge that I will die one day and it may be the cancer that kills me.
Though that revelation was not the least bit easy for me, it did release me from my prison of fear. I understood in a way I never truly did before that it is important to live for today, hope for tomorrow and stay present in the moment. To accept the good and the bad.
Therefore, I wake up every day and I plant my flowers and tend to my garden. I still pull weeds, but I no longer sweat the occasional dandelion that pops up now and again—just as my doubts flare up from time to time and my fears of cancer’s recurrence returns. I use those moments as an opportunity to remind myself to breathe. To take the time to seize the day, hold tight to the ones that I love, and always to stop and smell the flowers.