"Worrying is pulling tomorrow's clouds over today's sunshine." - Joyce Saltman
I've seen many other cancer patients writing about their "vertical days" so I can't claim to have coined the term, but I certainly can relate to its truths. When it's a vertical day, it's an especially carpe diem kinda day, and I had a lot of vertical moments to take advantage of this weekend.
Friday is traditionally pizza night in the Diamond household and we were talking about getting the $8 large Big Y cheese pizza because we love a good deal, but I pulled the cancer card. I pointed out how much we love Little City's namesake pizza and how we should get it while we can as we should be living every moment to the fullest, and so should
our taste buds. So Craig, Sammy and I picked up our fav pizza: grilled chicken, melted leeks, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic spread, fontina and Roma cheeses and enjoyed it on a blanket in the sun in Simsbury Meadows. A beautiful night to devour a large between the two of us then nap in the grass and stroll along Iron Horse Boulevard.
Saturday was Craig's birthday surprise that I had planned and was so excited to take him to. By 9 a.m. we were in Charlemont, Mass., strapped in harnesses and carrabeaners galore and ready
to fly through the trees on a canopy zipline tour at Zoar Outdoor. We had ziplined through the rainforest in St. Lucia on our honeymoon and loved it, no matter how sketchy it may have been being two days after Hurricane Dean plowed through! Here, we took a 4x4 ride up a mountain from which we descended from tree platform to tree platform via 7 ziplines, 2 repels and 2 sky bridges.
We zipped to speeds of 25 miles an hour on lines nearly 600-feet long. The whole experience was exhilarating and enthralling to be out among these beautiful views of the lush Catskills, sharing laughs with a great group of people and watching my husband speed toward me with his shorts flapping in the wind.
Still feeling strong and vertical, we stopped at some interesting Mowhawk Indian markets full of rabbits feet, moccas
ins, snake head key chains, plastic unicorns and real "looking" bear claws. We even
passed a Pow Wow and an 80-foot Indian statue. We did end up at Big Y, this time for the 30-inch-grinder-for-$9 deal and ate it across our laps on the drive home. Not the whole thing, mind you.
Still feeling strong it was off to Celebrate West Hartford in our old stomping grounds. We were even brave enough to bring Sammy who did markedly well in the huge crowds of people. All she barked and flared her fur mohawk at were the cows on parade --- she didn't know what to think of these large painted "animals" with no scent --- and a man dressed in a dog mascot costume who tried to pet her. Who can blame her? We saw some beautiful artisan works, heard some great music and caught up with some of Craig's fellow teachers. I even had the chance to meet some of his students. Mr. Diamond is a rock star at events like these, especially with a wife and dog on his arms since kids are always amazed to know that teachers exist outside their classrooms.
Then it was pumpkin time. My body started to give out and it was time to leave. A very long afternoon nap was wondrous. Woke up at 8:30pm for a slice of pizza, then back to sleep, but I was proud that my body did me good.
After breakfast with some friends we went to Hartford Hospital's Celebrate Life, an event that I had been promoting in the communications I handle for the hospital and was intrigued to attend for myself as a patient. It's an odd dynamic working at and promoting the hospital who's doctors and nurses are saving my life. It's humbling to have the opportunity to grow such an understanding of the importance of good medical care. Celebrate Life is hosted each year by the Helen & Harry Gray Cancer Center to bring together survivors and family to do just that --- celebrate life. Scot Haney emceed in hot madras pants, always entertaining. There were musical performances, a presentation by a laughter guru and addresses by the center's benefactor, Harry Gray, the hospital's COO and director of its Cancer Center, again, people I've met in meetings or have written or published stories about or photos of but now saw in a whole new context. I chatted with some co-workers who it was so nice to see, and some who did not know about my diagnosis and were wondering where the heck I had been lately. My main goal in attending was to find other twentysomethings going through this, but came out with something entirely different.
It seemed there were close to 1,000 people there and there was not one person my age in sight. Lots of old people, a sight I am getting used to. I also spotted no one else in the entire place without hair or wearing a scarf on their head like I was. Maybe this was more for survivors not those currently undergoing treatment. I felt like Craig and I stuck out like a sore thumb, but by the end of it realized that I had more in common with these people than I ever thought.
Before the program started, a woman behind me patted me on the back and asked if I was undergoing chemotherapy. When I turned I saw this fantastically done up older woman, maybe in her seventies I would guess. She told me that I reminded her of herself 10 years ago when she was diagnosed. She told me how she lost all her hair and how it came back as curly as Shirley Temple's and saved her lots on salon visits. She was very intrigued by the type of cancer I have, who my oncologist is, and told me over and over that I was going to be fine.
At the end of the program it quickly came apparent that there were many more than this one old woman who had taken notice of me. I turned to say goodbye to her and her row of friends all wanted to give me a hug. I was showered with "You are so beautiful!" "You are going to do great!" "We will see you next year!" They were all teary-eyed and hugging me close into their bosoms so that I was inhaling their strong perfume and hair perm chemicals. It was so touching and so unexpected that the lump in throat rose higher and higher. I turned and there were more old women literally waiting to hug me, to grab my hand, to tell me that I was beautiful and that I was going to be okay. I suddenly had a dozen grandmothers rooting for me and I realized that they saw themselves in me. They saw their daughters, their granddaughters and wanted me to know that I could fight this. They did.
So overwhelmed by emotion and trying desperately to hold it together as Craig and I walked hand-in-hand out of the auditorium, a younger woman came up to me to ask if I would accept something from her. During the program they had asked all those who had been diagnosed within a year to stand, then 5 years, 10 years ... up to 20 or more years. The woman said that she saw me stand and wanted to give me a pink "Strive for a Cure" bracelet that she had gotten at Relay for Life the day before. She told me that she had found a lump on her neck, had it removed and was done with cancer so doesn't consider herself a survivor like others, but wanted to pass this bracelet along. I told her that I would be honored to wear it and she hugged me and told me that she hoped my treatments went as well as they could go and like all the others I had met today, told me that I would beat this.
I walked out leaning on Craig unable to speak in awe of the kindness and overwhelming love of these perfect strangers. It's a moment I'll never forget.
We pulled into our driveway to find my parents arranging beautiful hanging plants on our porch and planting potted flower displays and I thought, how can one person be so lucky?