Trail of Tears

Four months ago today I received a diagnosis of cancer.

I will never be the same as I was before that fateful moment. Just follow the trail of tears that I have cried every day since.

Tears are an adjunct to cancer.

Initially, my tears were a response to the shock and denial of a medical nightmare. Within my new terrifyingly dark tunnel, they rushed forth, tumbling in the terror and confusion, waterfalls of tears for fears. It seemed as if they would never stop.

Soon more tears gushed as chaos defined my course ahead, with countless medical appointments, tests, frightening dialogues of possibilities and treatments, the loss of all control as daily events took a severe detour to the left.

My happily anticipated future plans had to be cancelled when life was hijacked. Cascades of tears followed, endlessly. Loved ones tried to console me but they were speaking from a sunlit perspective, a vantage point I no longer shared. Their regular lives were rolling along but I had no map where mine could one day be. The cancellations of cheerful events stripped the only light and air from my tunnel, wounding me like amputations.

Then new tears joined my mix, but now a different kind. Suddenly, as friends and family started reaching out with loving support, their generous actions brought waves of tears, thankful ones. Calls, messages, gifts, assistance offers, visits, they all made me cry glorious tears of courage and hope.

A successful lumpectomy and subsequent optimistic pathology report brought torrents of grateful tears. So did the news that I would only need four chemo treatments, spaced three weeks apart, rather than six cycles.

Tears of steel fell as I mentally prepared to shave off all my hair proactively. Tears of incredulous laughter fell as I realized the chemo treatments did not affect my hair after all. Tears of awe followed as the majority of anticipated chemo side effects failed to materialize.

Chemicals and steroids induced uncontrollable buckets of tears over everything and nothing. Then my proclivity for crying all the time made me cry because I seemed to no longer be the strong person I once knew myself to be.

I am now done with all of my chemo treatments with six weeks of radiation ahead, beginning in April. My family will be here in another month, their annual visit to San Diego. Tom and I already have our August tickets for England, and we are planning when we can get down to Baja, something we have loved doing together for forty-five years.

It seems that life as I once knew it is slowly returning. And it is.

But, I will never be the same person in that life, although I will certainly resume being a happy one. A cancer diagnosis has emotionally scarred me, something that only other cancer patients will understand. For the first time, cancer has introduced future trepidation as a permanent reality, something that has never characterized my life before. I now feel a new fragility, one that transcends the health unknowns all of us face. I am suddenly vulnerable. I know the visceral fear.

At the conclusion of my treatments, I will celebrate. I will cry tears of unfathomable joy and relief. My family and friends will join me, expecting me to continue along my yellow brick road, as if nothing ever happened. They will mean well.

However, something did happen, and I have the trail of tears to prove it. Now there will likely be new tears ahead, tears of anxiety, as I am medically supervised for the rest of my life. They will not define me, those years of tears to come, nor will I wallow in them.

But I know they will be there waiting for me, as the adjunct trail to cancer meanders on.

6 thoughts on “Trail of Tears

  1. Your way with words is amazing. You have captured so many of the thoughts and feelings I had with my diagnosis. It is true that in many ways you are changed forever, but your core of strength and wit are part of you and always will be. Your journey will bring strength and hope to those who find themselves on that frightening road.

  2. You write so beautifully. May the trepidation ease as time goes on and may you stay healthy for all your many years to come. Much love.

  3. Thank you for sharing, Terri. I pray every teardrop you shed will be a gift of healing to your soul. I have heard there’s a crystal lake in the sky where all the teardrops are stored and loved. When I had the thyroid storm/stroke at 37, people used to say to me (after the permanent damage (and very long recovery), “Just think of who you could have been had you not had this disability!” I began to see though, as I looked back, that it was this illness that actually made me who I am. Was part of my journey. Vulnerable, yes. Changed forever, yes. Difficult, beyond. I am grateful. Big hugs and congratulations on completing this part of your journey with such courage and love.

  4. Mrs Hamlin, you are such a strong and beautiful woman! I know you have a great life ahead of you with your family and all those wonderful people that care for you! Remember that you are love by all of us!!

  5. I absolutely love reading what you write Terri. You bless us, your readers, every time you use this gift you have. And I enjoy reading all the loving & encouraging comments that tell you how special you are to each of us & also the comments from your readers who share some of their own trials. I’ve found sometimes just saying, “Give us this day our daily bread.” is the best I can do. But, sometimes it’s enough. Keep on writing & blessing us!!!❤️

    P.S. Mrs. Netemeyer, please tell Kevin hello!!! Thank you both for putting your lives on the line for people like me. Your service doesn’t go unappreciated. I’m so thankful for you guys.

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