I’ve been her exterminator for 11 years. She’s 72. She retired from her career as a nurse two years ago. And that’s all I knew until today.
“Come sit Sherry.”
Her kitchen is burgundy with a teddy bear wallpaper border. Baskets of candy and cookies make it feel comfortable.
“Sherry, I know a lot about you but I’m very quiet. I never want to draw attention but sometimes it’s necessary to lift another.”
I stare into her pale blue eyes. She wears a cross around her neck that lays on her grape purple T-shirt that has “World’s Best Nana” screen printed in white.
“Sherry, I’m an 8 year breast cancer survivor. I did 45 rounds of chemo and underwent 38 radiation treatments.”
I gasp, fold my hands and place my arms on the table. Palms clutched. She has my full attention and she deserves it.
“It was late September, the Oncologist told me I’d lose my hair. It was gray and landed at the back of my bra strap. I believed I’d be the exception but I heeded his caution and had my hairdresser cut my silver strands to shoulder length. I went and sat in the chair and took my first treatment.” She said and she paused.
I gave her time. I was willing to give her hours because I knew something big was coming.
“Sherry, on October 1st, I went and sat on my front porch swing. I was wearing a red sweater. It was chilly that day and the wind was blowing. It was three days after my chemo treatment. I was watching the birds at my feeders. I needed time to think and that’s when it started. The wind picked up and my hair began to blow away. Little by little, strands just up and parted way from my head. At that moment, I got very strong. I didn’t cry. I said, why not me? I’m no better than anyone else!”
By now my jaw has dropped. I’m soaking up her strength like a sponge. I said nothing because there are times it’s best to be silent.
“Sherry, I sat there alone and for one hour, I pulled out all of my hair and let the wind take it. I wanted the birds to have it to make beautiful nests for their young.”
This is how I maintain my strength. It’s because I’m surrounded by people who have gone before me.