Thursday, April 5, 2012
Yellow Tulips Everywhere
"Ekphrasis Post. Go to flickr.com/explore and write a post inspired by the image. Can you link it to your health focus? Don’t forget to post the image!" #HAWMC
I read today's prompt right away upon waking -- it was such a creative prompt that I couldn't wait to dive in. But the day got away from me, and before I knew it, I was on the train home, clicking on the flickr link from my iPhone... but once I saw this image it was so perfect I was glad I'd waited. Had it been another time or place, who knows if this would have been my image.
When I was a junior in college, I lost a dear friend to cancer. G was one of my best friends from high school, and at the end of sophomore year of college, she was diagnosed with angio sarcoma. I don't know a ton about the particular form of cancer, except that it was very rare and deadly - at the time of her diagnoses, the Mayo Clinic had only seen 10 cases... and 7 had passed away.
We were 21 years old, and obviously this rocked my close-knit group of friends to the core. Although I don't grieve over this anymore, I think I can safely say that not a day goes by that I don't think about G.
The cancer took her in less than a year. And in that year, there were awful times and awesome times, but mostly awful. Days when I'd wake up crying and go to bed the same way. Days when when I was so screwed up over this that I landed myself in therapy. Days when, during her illness, we would laugh so hard we'd almost puke and usually end up crying. Days when the realness and vulnerability of the situation was so incredibly heavy.
"I'm scared," she'd admit to me -- cautiously.
"Well, I'm scared too. But a year from now, this will all be behind us."
"I sure hope so."
I barely remember the drive home from my quiet midwestern liberal arts college - I just recall that I needed my advisers signature for my next term of classes so that I could leave - I shoved some papers in his hand, tried to hide my puffy eyes and tear-streaked face, and told him I didn't know when I'd be back.
"Okay. I, uh, I.. are you okay? I hope you are okay."
Old dude had no idea what to say to me. But that's okay, because I really didn't want to talk. Suddenly we were all at a funeral. G was gone, and nothing made sense.
But anyway. Back to the tulips.
G LOVED Tulips -- particularly yellow ones. They were so happy and cheerful. Every time I'm at the grocery store and there are yellow tulips, you can bet they find a way into my cart (in fact, I just tonight threw out last week's tulips, who had seen better days).
Last year, the hospital where G received most of her care, broke ground on a new cancer wing. Her father was on the board or the fund-raising committee or something, and many of us donated funds towards the Greta E. Frank Memorial Family Room, a place where families can gather while their loved ones go through treatment. The high school gang all contributed to donate a brick with her name on it on a walk-way outside the building.
And in her room, on the wall, a framed print... of yellow tulips.
How does this tie back to my health? Well, there's the obvious things -- never take your health for granted; get frequent check ups; don't ignore suspicious signs and symptoms... but also part of what I learned throughout this whole ordeal is how OKAY it is to feel what you're feeling; own your emotions, process them, and emote. I have always been the "lock things up and bottle them away" type of girl, but in learning to love and let go of Greta, I learned to mourn openly; to let myself be sad in public, and that it is okay to say what you're feeling when things are icky.
I smiled quietly when the picture of tulips showed up on my phone. I knew instantly what to write about - didn't even have to give it any thought. My sweet friend Greta, still looking down on me from above, still inspiring positivity in my life every day.
I love you.
Off and running,