A few short months before my daughter was born, we lost my Aunt Bunny to breast cancer.
Her second granddaughter born just days before my own. The obvious difference between my daughter and my cousin’s daughter are the memories my daughter shares with her grandmother.
Two summers before her passing we had a great visit with her, my uncle, my parents, my son and much family in Southern Illinois. During that time my aunt was in remission. The Tim McGraw song “Live Like You Were Dying” had been a hit a few years prior.
It’s a beautiful song.
During a road trip to Memphis, I still remember the minivan we rented being filled with song as we all sang the lyrics at the top of our lungs. Our eyes filled with tears from both emotion and gratitude.
Tuesday, July 14 was my final chemotherapy treatment in my 12-week regimen. I’d be lying if I didn’t share the week leading up to it had been filled with emotion. My treatment has gone quick. My support has been overwhelming and my health (minus a few down days) has stayed good, well except for some stage three cancer.
I think of my aunt often.
While she was the wife of my mom’s brother, we had no true blood relation, yet she was a family beacon. Her strength, smile and commitment to living fully minus a setback was inspiring.
The past several weeks I’ve now been on the other side of a few of these words and in truth – I don’t really get it.
I know I’ve shared before I lost a lot of really special people much too sudden at a very young age. Death early is life changing, at least that’s my experience. That Tim McGraw song has held true for me for much of my adult life. We just never know.
My personal experience with cancer has been pretty simple; it’s both a reminder as well as an opportunity to use a public forum to remind us all – life is fragile.
Oh sure, we are living in the world of COVID-19, social unrest and a laundry list of things that make me wonder, what is going on? I’m just not the girl to stop living and doing my damndest to do it as fully as possible.
Leaving the Cancer Treatment Center on Tuesday, was oddly bittersweet. There’s a side to all of this which has been a reminder of many blessings. Blessed by my oncology team, who I will now begin a new chapter with. Blessed by supportive friends, family and yes, even this community which has cheered me on from near and far.
So you tell me, what’s not to live for? What’s not to celebrate and revel in?
Yes, I understand “I have cancer,” but so do a lot of other people and well … Life goes on. I’m no different.
So here’s to the next chapter of this crazy roller coaster of life and as Tim McGraw so eloquently put it:
“Someday I hope you get the chance, To live like you were dying, Like tomorrow was a gift, And you’ve got eternity, To think about what you’d do with it.”
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.