The Courage of a Squirrel

Three weeks ago, I received the last of my chemo drugs but it’s today that marks the official end of the treatment. The sessions were spaced three weeks apart (allowing the body time to recover), so if I was still undergoing chemo, I’d be sitting at the Cross Cancer Hospital right now with an IV in my arm. Instead, I am sitting on a massive log on a beach on Whidbey Island listening to the waves crash against the shore.

I’d rather be here any day.

With the Taxotere and Cytoxan officially out of my body, I am now 2/4 through the treatment plan for my breast cancer: Phase 1 was surgery, phase 2 was chemo, phase 3 is radiation and phase 4 is an estrogen-blocking drug I will take for five years.

Being done with chemo means no more side effects of the drugs. Hallelujah. Radiation has some, but not like chemo. I’m looking forward to seeing my hair grow back. Out of all the side effects brought on by chemo, hair loss was the doozy-est. Fierce looking selfies and creative scarf tying aside, I have not entirely embraced my baldness, to be honest.

Chemo was a savage monster, but it was also a teacher. It made me humble, it made me cuss and it made me beg; it made me cry and it made me rage. It also put a lot of things into perspective and it made me realize just how strong I really am. It has made me more tender and compassionate and it’s made me braver and more candid. I came face to face with my own vulnerability, fought against it and then embraced it. In that process, I found a more authentic me. The value of that lesson is astounding.

This road trip is my reward for surviving what breast cancer has thrown at me so far.

Today as I drove through the Wenatchee Forest State Park in Washington to get here, I saw a young squirrel cross four lanes of traffic to get from one side of the road to the other. He was so small and he ran so fast. I don’t know how he made it to the other side with vehicles coming at him in all four lanes. He didn’t look to the side. He just focused on the end goal and gave it all he had.

Those 12 metres must have felt like 100.

I don’t know what’s going to come at me in the future, but when it feels like I can’t make it or when life throws too much at me, I’m going to be like that squirrel—laser-focused and determined to make it through. Scared as hell, perhaps, but I’ll let that fear be the driving force to get me to the other side.

Fishing boats are going about their business in the harbour. I have a cup of coffee in front of me and a fresh-baked croissant waiting for me to rip it apart. I am surrounded by salt air, cedar and water…and probably a thousand squirrels in that forest behind me.

Life is good, and I am grateful.

#bethesquirrel #vulnerability #breastcancer #courage #gratitude

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Author: Twyla Campbell

World-wide wanderer, CBC Edmonton AM Restaurant Reviewer, Member of Edmonton’s Slow Food convivium, oenophile, epicurean explorer and a freelance writer whose works have appeared in several magazines and newspapers including More, Above & Beyond, Avenue (Edmonton), Up Here, Northern Flyer, Opulence, City Palate, the Edible Prairie Journal, The Edmonton Journal, Slow Food Canada, Lifestyle Alberta, and on Slow Food Edmonton’s website. Grant MacEwan University (Professional Writing Program) Bachelor of Applied Communications Degree (in progress). I’m a Tweeter @wanderwoman10

6 thoughts on “The Courage of a Squirrel

  1. I look forward to the day when you write the story of Twyla Campbell survived the highway like the little squirrel and is officially Cancer free.

  2. Ok- beautifully written. I’m happy for you that chemo is done and you are rewarding yourself with a trip. I’ve got tears running down my face as I read this but they are happy tears that you have come this far and. setting a good example for many. You are so brave Twyla. Sending you hugs and kisses.

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