Wednesday, July 23, 2008

a night out for sarcoma survivors

Monday night, I took a nausea pill and got myself dressed for the first time since Friday; after dinner, we all piled into the car and went to the Rein In Sarcoma Party in the Park. (The poster image is of sunflowers, a symbol for sarcoma healing, apparently.) It was a nice night out. The weather was pleasant, the band sounded good, and there were plenty of family activities. I was wearing my chemo backpack and feeling a bit tired, but neither of those things kept me from enjoying myself. We even ran into a family we'd met in ECFE class this spring.

At the bubble-blowing station, Daniel found (and kept ... *gulp*) a battery-operated bubble-blower that he now refers to as his "weed-whacker." A push of the button turned on a low-humming fan that sounds a lot like the saw noises Daniel likes to make. He's shy in crowds, but he was in heaven, aiming it at people very quietly and unobtruvisely, his eyes steadily trained on whomever was in his view, like a little Jedi knight.

The highlight of the night was free rides on Como Park's 94-year-old carousel. I decided I wanted to take Daniel on it. Steve wondered if my stomach would be able to tolerate the spinning. I wondered if I'd be able to climb onto a horse with my bad hip. We both wondered if Daniel would freak out. Yes, yes and sort of.

The first horse I put Daniel on was too high and too big, and when I put him on top of it and stood next to him with my arms around his waist, he immediately slunk down toward me saying, "I don't like it."

The carousel operator came by and told us the bench seats were full, but gestured to a small horse in the middle row a few yards back. We made our way, and I put Daniel on that horse. He responded the same way to the horse, but I was pretty sure he'd do OK if I were sitting on it with him.

The carousel operator, who had seen that I had difficulty walking, immediately commissioned the two guys on either side of me to help out. Lucky me: They were both good-looking and strong! (And dads, riding with their kids.) One of them helped me up while the other held my cane.

As I got settled, the guy who helped me up said, "Hip or leg?"

"Hip," I said. Turns out that at a sarcoma picnic, you aren't too far from people who have been there, done that. He'd had it in his leg, had surgery and chemo and all the works. We traded war stories as the carousel went around, and my self-consciousness about having to ask for help because of my hip evaporated.

Daniel's face went from a frown to a smile. He liked the up-down motion, and he had fun seeing his dad wave at him every time time he came into view. Later, though, he told me the horses were "kind of scary."

As we loaded up the car to go home, the band was playing Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive, with a few lyrics rewritten for the cancer crowd. It was kind of hokey, but I found myself crying anyway, quietly, sitting on a bench behind the stroller. A woman in her 50s or 60s came up to me and said, "Honey, I have two kids, 22 and 25, and when I was your age, I looked just like you. And now, here I am." And then she smiled encouragingly and walked away.

More tears, but not bad ones.


Wordgirl said...

What a beautiful post, and what beautiful moments of human kindness and connection.

Thank you.


Marie said...

My heart aches for you more than you can ever know. I've been reading your blog for months now, and find that you give me strength, courage, and humility. You are so brave and such an inspiration. You keep fighting, and I will keep praying.

Marie Beckerleg

Mary said...

I'm so glad you had a good time. I just returned from the core Team Sarcoma event in's so special to be around others who have been there. At the same time, no one has been exactly where you are, and it's strange how a gathering like this can be both encouraging and a bit isolating at the same time.

The first time I went with Team Sarcoma, I was in a lot of pain. It was two years after my surgery and I was still hurting so bad! I thought it would never end, and here I was surrounded by survivors who could bike 30 miles a day. Several of them asked me why I couldn't (it was just my arm, after all). It was hard, but still good. This time around, a lot of the pain has finally subsided, and I know how to work with it too. Even though I still can't bike, I don't feel so self-conscious about it, and I don't feel like I have anything to prove. So it wasn't lonely this time!

That was just some random personal sharing. Life can be hard and confusing with just enough beautiful moments thrown in to make you want to keep at it. I have cried at cheesy stuff's funny how that works! You think "oh this is so cheesy," and the next thing you know you're all involved. :-)

Kay said...

Great post Emilie - happy tears.
I love that the sunflower is the sarcoma survivor symbol. Strong and beautiful with it's face always towards the sun. An optimistic flower indeed.

Jenni said...

I think that older lady was your guardian angel, sent to reassure you that this battle will have the results we're all hoping for, so in 20 years you can reassure another young woman of the same thing. Keep up the fight, Emilie.

Madwoman of Preserve Path said...

What a wonderful post, Emilie. It's so good for you to do things like this. If we didn't need hokiness (God knows if I spelled that right or if it's even a word!) from time to time, nobody would do it. Over-the-top suffering calls for over-the-top inspiration. You gotta pull out the stops sometimes. That's the reason for catharsis.

Not on Fire said...

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful post!

Tracy said...

Wonderful post, thank you for sharing your journey with us... your in my prayers always.

Rebecca said...

Happy tears here, too, Emilie.

kristine said...

Yep...I've got the happy tears, too. Yay for happy tears!

LutherLiz said...

That just made me smile! :)

Anonymous said...

Emilie, I'm so glad you had that nice night out with your family. The carousel at Como is really a great community asset. Who can't help but smile? Come to think of it, what a fitting image for our lives,too. We go up and down and feel like the going around and around in circles is directionless or scarey. But the ride DOES end and was fun after all, and we get to see our loved one(s) waiting right there for us. They greet us and all is well!

BTW, I think she was your guardian angel, too.

-- Laura S.

Anonymous said...

Oh Em, this is so moving! I don't think they have such events in Portland, except for maybe breast cancer.

It's incredible to think that good looking man who helped you onto your horse had a sarcoma as well (in the leg).

Speaking of, I love that carousel! I love carousels in general - there's a museum in Hood River with some authentic horses, which Ellen & I toured one time.

Hood River had Relay-for-Life last Saturday, where I played violin. July must be a popular cancer awareness month.

- Susanne

Christina said...

Now there's a great visualization: your boys in their early 20s. IMAGINE what they'll be up to then!!!

Barbara said...
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Barbara said...

Isn't it wonderful to be with other people who have been there and know what you're going through without long explanations? I'm so glad you were able to get out and have such a positive experience! Go Emilie!

I hope Daniel is enjoying his "wheel-whacker"!

I'm glad, also, that you're feeling better today. :-)

Heather said...

How wonderful to have that kind of gathering and support. Sarcoma is still a "forgotten cancer" in our corner of the world.

Hooray on another round completed!

Jamie said...

That sounds like a wonderful evening. It sure helps to be around people who know what you are going through :)

Amy said...

Emilie - I finished reading your post needing to find a tissue, not because of sadness but because of the way you simply right about life.

The world would be a better place if everyone could follow your example in the way you go through life accepting the good, bad and in between.

Thank you for your beautiful words and stories. You've got a gift for writing.


Mrs. Fire Family Williams said...

What a wonderful post.

Piccinigirl said...

the tears come for you, keep fighting and know that I am praying and am a lover of sunflowers. Now that I know what they mean to you in your fight, I will be sure to always be sending you sunflower thoughts. Be strong, be well.


Roxy said...

Happy tears for you!!

EasyMac said...

I love this post, especially when you talk about the angels that walk among us each and every day.

Anonymous said...