Friday, February 12, 2010

Angels in Mini-Vans

Editor's note: One of the most talented writers I've met in the breast cancer community is Debbie Clement. She is also a professional performer, a published author of books for teachers and children, and a photographer. Most of all, she has  a unique way of transforming the painful, difficult parts of this breast cancer journey into beautiful words. We hope to see and hear a lot more from her in the months ahead! Suzanne It's now 5 weeks since my second diagnosis of DCIS. I had two years and nine months to consider the possibility of hearing that announcement again, "It's cancer." It's been just over three weeks since my surgery and I am making progress toward reclaiming my life. One step at a time. Literally. My BC mentor and friend, Saint, put me on a very specific walking program. We call it: one step at a time. (My new mantra.) Walking upon waking and then a nice rest with computer visiting and then a second walk sometime after lunch. I am working very hard to pace myself, to guard against my splurge toward 'over-doing' it.

So earlier this week I checked the skies & the thermometer and dressed appropriately: walking pants, long sleeve t-shirt and then due to the 49 degrees I zipped up my hot-pink, winter parka, all the way up to my hood. For Pete's sake I'm from the mid-west... 49 degrees on a February morning with a blue sky, is an open inviation to get moving!

Off I went. I have a route. I follow it conscientously, again, to guard against my own enthusiasm & my desire which over-extends my actual current capabilities. I was just about to my half way mark, when I heard a car approaching me from behind. Slowing down. Someone needing directions to the clubhouse perhaps?? (It's really hard to imagine that anyone is lost.) The mini-van came to a complete stop and the driver put her window down and I walked over. Then came the most amazing part of the interaction, the part worth logging down for posterity. The driver said these four words to me, "You are sooooo courageous."

I am stunned. I am flabber-gasted. I have no words. I am on the verge of tears.... maybe even a total melt-down? How does she know? How does this total stranger know my story? The tears are all set to cascade when in my complete silence she continues, "This is such a cold morning for a Florida walk."

My tears turn to laughter on a dime, instantaneously. My heart does a couple of cart-wheels. She doesn't know my tale of woe!! She has not used her super powers of x-ray vision to beam thru my three layers of protective gear to assess my scars. She did not read the bumper sticker on my back that says 'bilateral-basket case, no recon, approach with care'. She has not ascertained anything from my body language or the pace of my walk. She apparently didn't even see the neon lights blinking over my head flashing: "2-time cancer survivor, emotional land mine, pass with caution." She was commenting on the unseasonable weather. Seriously!! In her mind, walking on a brisk morning made me courageous. Just imagine.......

I stammer something about recently completed surgery and my needing fresh air. She asks for my first name & promises to say a prayer for me. My return trip home is a blink, because I keep repeating her statement to myself, "You are sooo courageous. You are SOOO courageous. YOU are sooooo courageous." [I think it's one of those times when "fake it-till ya make it," is applicable.] I can squeeze my ears, right now as I type, and hear her saying to me, "You are soooo courageous." I'm inching closer and closer to my new normal. Tomorrow's assignment will be to walk and smile at the same time.

Never under-estimate the power of four kind words spoken by a stranger.

A mini-van with an angel. Thank you and thank you again.

You can read more of Debbie's work at her blog
Music Lady Fun!


  1. Thought of you on my walk today, Debbie. I tried smiling and walking at the same time. At first it seemed too complicated, and I wasn't sure I could do it, but once I got the hang of it I actually felt a little lighter on my feet! Thanks.

  2. the great thing about hearing stories like Debbie's is that it lifts us all up.

  3. Today I'm attempting walking & smiling along the ocean's edge. Exhilerating in this unseasonably cold snap, but invigorating is a good quality in a walk.

    (The secret is to walk INTO the wind initially, and then the return walk home is a 'breeze.')

  4. I guess that is a bit like the process of dealing with bc...we walk in to the wind, and hope the trip home is easier.