After the gynecologist called me at work and uttered the words, “You have a breast cancer, “ I cried, I prayed, and withdrew from the speaking world for a bit. Talking proved one of the harder things to do since cancer, said in a quick whisper, seemed to creep up in every conversation. I know my family and friends felt helpless and wanted to do anything they could to help. My sister drove to Target that very day I believe, and bought me a scarf. Looking back now I have to giggle a little bit since we couldn’t possibly have known at that point what I might need . Shortly there after she came to my house looking for something to do for me, to run an errand, to clean something, anything, so I told her I needed a bag for chemo. She brought me one of her own that had been given as a gift to her. She filled it with a blanket, a book, and some snacks, the chemossentials. My first chemo Doug and I spent the whole day there, CT scan first, blood draw then off to the infusion room for my cocktails. Doug carried that beautiful, bright red bag with him…and to every chemo after that. Valentines day 2011 the bag was emptied, no more chemo, no more books, no snacks, no magazines, emptied, and it sat empty for almost a year.
In that next year I kept moving the bag to different places in the house as not to look at it. I would almost gag thinking about the chemo bag, thinking about chemo. In that bright bag lined in sunshine yellow decorated with blue, white, and green flowers, I had left all my nausea, my weakness, my baldness, my anger, and my pride. Looking at it wasn’t an option, yet giving it back didn’t seem the solution either. So the bag sat here, then the bag sat there, shoved in a closet, under the bed even, but it’s vibrant colors and shiny coat always managed to peek out from the dark corners. The more I tried to hide it, the more I could see it. It was useless to hide it, it was a daily reminder of the darkness that lived within the colorful bag. I moved it to the corner of the room and we stared at each other a little bit more each day.
Then this past February I got a call to team on a retreat as a music minister. Thrilled beyond words my excitement bubbled over. I went to the first meeting with my purse in tow to see what I would need. The next week I took some music sheets in a blue and back canvas bag that Doug received at a trade show. It held the music but would fall over since the bottom narrowed to a point. A few weeks later I needed to carry a lot more music, so I put it all in a binder and carried that back and forth, for a while. Finally it was retreat time, I packed, loaded the guitar, then stared at all the music and stuff I wanted to carry. I couldn’t find a bag big enough. The chemo bag lay limp in the corner of the room - I looked at it, but figured all the music wouldn’t fit in there anyway. After a fruitless search of my house, and at the last minute of course, in a huff I grabbed that ugly old chemo bag. Funny how when I emptied all the nausea, the weakness, the baldness, the anger and yes the pride, all the music fit just fine, and the bag stood up straight and welcomed the load. Today I understand that I need to empty my bags so all the good stuff will fit instead.