Sunday, December 5, 2010
THE POWER OF A DAISY (For all cancer survivors and those living with cancer)
From one of my favorite cookbooks: "FORGET ME NOT", Recipes and Stories to Remember from Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro, NC.
I was 32 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was very fortunate to have the support of a loving husband, family and friends. However, during the course of my battle with cancer, I came to realize the importance of a pet during such a traumatic time in one's life. It is uncanny the intuitiveness that my dog exhibited during this time.
Daisy Leigh is a four-year old yellow Labrador Retriever. She is a very playful dog with a tremendous amount of energy and intelligence. Daisy's encouragement and playfulness helped me to endure my cancer treatments.
It all started the day after my biopsy. I was sitting in the tub, getting prepared to go back to my surgeon, not realizing that in two hours time I would receive a diagnosis that would forever change my life. As I was bathing, Daisy came into the bathroom and placed her head on my breast at the location of the incision. She very gently kept her head there for a few minutes. Daisy had never done this before while I was bathing, and has never done it again. She knew that I was in pain, and she was trying to help me. I sometimes wonder if somehow she knew before I did that I had cancer.
Daisy helped to keep my spirits up during my chemotherapy treatments. During my first few treatments, I was sicker than I had ever been in my life, but Daisy would always find a way to make me laugh. She would do something that was totally outrageous to cheer me up. As my treatments began to make me sicker, I could always count on Daisy to be there for me. No matter what time of day, no matter where she was in the house, any time that I was physically sick from treatments, Daisy would come to the bathroom and sit there with me.
She would gently lick my face to let me know that everything was going to be okay.
During the third month of my chemotherapy treatments, I started to lose my long, blonde hair. This was a very traumatic event for me. My hair loss was very gradual. Every day I would pray for my hair to stop falling out and, being the eternal optimist that I am, I never imagined that I would lose all of my hair. Each day, handful after handful of hair was falling out in spite of all of my prayers and positive thoughts. I learned that chemotherapy treatments show no favoritism.
It was during this time that I also discovered how cruel people could be, even though they think they are somehow making you feel better. As my hair was falling out, people would ask, "Have you tried to wear a wig?" Others remarked, "You never really did have thick hair anyway," and "If hair is coming out, that means the chemo is doing its job." I even had a coworker bring me a brochure advertising a product to promote hair growth in balding men. Although I am sure that these people did not intentionally want to hurt me, their remarks would infuriate me on my "good chemo days" and make me cry on my "bad chemo days."
As my hair continued to thin, I decided it would have to be cut. I had my hair cut from below shoulder length to chin length, crying as my beautician cut each strand. My hair had not been this short since I was a toddler. I felt so ugly. Feeling a lot of self pity at this point, I thought to myself that this was just another treasured possession that cancer had taken away from me. However, when I got home, Daisy greeted me with her tail wagging, happy as ever to see me. She did not care anything about the length or thickness of my hair. Her only concern was the tears on my cheeks. As I sat down, she put half of her body in my lap and gently licked my tears away, providing me with a tremendous amount of comfort and support.
Although my physical appearance had changed during the previous six months, Daisy did not care. She loved me regardless of my hair, weight, scars, or any other physical attributes. Daisy and I had been through six months of chemotherapy treatments and, through it all, she continued to be a source of happiness, encouragement, and unconditional love.
After my final chemotherapy treatment, I went and had my head shaved to eliminate the few straggling strands of hair that remained. For a variety of reasons, I had decided that I would not wear a wig. I realized that people who did not previously know I had cancer would now know. I also knew that I was opening myself for public scrutiny for a 5-foot 10-inch tall woman with a shaved head cannot be very inconspicuous. Before I went to bed that night, I prayed for the courage to make it through the next day with my shaved head and short stubble. I also prayed for the strength to ignore the stares from strangers and the innocent, but hurtful, remarks from friends.
The next morning, I was awakened by a very unusual sensation. Daisy was sitting above my head licking every square inch of my head. Once again, Daisy was there in my moment of need. I attribute the very thick hair I now have to the "power of Daisy."
The ancient Romans believed that certain dogs possessed a magical, healing power and that these dogs could diagnose and cure (sometimes with a lick) human illness. Perhaps they were not completely wrong...I have been cancer-free for two years.~Susan Freeze. Cancer Survivor.