–by Mary Helen Darah
I just arrived home from having lunch with the woman I want to be if or when I ever grow up. Terry Morris and I met in Lamaze class. We were both pregnant with our first child and immediately gravitated toward each other. It may have been her kind face or the fact that she was the only other woman in our class employed, over 18 and married. Either way, from that day on we have been sharing childcare, laughter, and remedies relating to the best way to dislodge Play-Doh from pet fur and most recently the best way to camouflage excess poundage and arm flab. Unfortunately, we now share the experience of battling the same disease–cancer (different colored ribbon but same fear) that she, in true Terry form, is taking on with organized gusto.
Terry and I have different playbooks on how we tackle life. She was always the highly organized career woman with a color-coded calendar system. I have a tendency to, well, “wing it.” My child, who did not fall far from the tree, would hand me crumpled permission slips and school newsletters that had been on the bottom of her book bag. Being a mom with closet ADHD, I would put forms in either a “special or safe” place never to be seen again. I would later be in full panic mode and be calling Terry who would drop by carrying crisp white copies of what I was searching for. I’m certain the endless paperwork that accompanies a cancer journey is sorted by her latest and greatest “system” that would rival the KonMari Method and kick Martha Stewart’s mode to the curb.
I know my hardy friend will survive, especially after witnessing decades of her incredible skills. She managed to stay calm and collected when my dad, who is a tad overzealous in the safety department, locked us out of our cabin in the Canadian wilderness at night while he and my mom were playing cards with the neighbors. Of course, we could have walked across to their place to retrieve the key if it weren’t for their “super-sized” dogs, one bearing a striking resemblance to Cujo. Instead, we chose to sit on the steps of a locked cabin at night wondering if the sound in the darkness was a squirrel, wolf or moose in heat. Waiting in the darkness for an hour and 22 minutes (who’s counting?) until my parents arrived home was nothing compared to what she’s going through now. It is far easier to stare out into the darkness of night while waiting to go into a warm cabin than to anxiously gaze into the unknown of test results and procedures.
She also survived a Women’s Wellness Weekend that falsely promoted a serene, shared residence and calming activities. Instead of the promised limo ride, we were informed that there were wheelbarrows available to take our items to our “dwelling.” After her initial, “I feel like we were dropped off in a remote part of Cambodia” comment, “Terry the Trooper” got to work sweeping the dirt out of our A-frame cabin, completing a mouse check and assigning bunks. She was unfazed as she navigated turbulent waters in a canoe that she shared with a type A fellow wellness weekend woman who refused to relinquish control. She even got out of her comfort zone and participated in a high-octane exercise class. Of course, she gave me the “if you ever get me into something like this again…” face. Little did we know that the weekend was perfect training for letting go and accepting things we have no control over.
In true Terry form, at lunch we discussed the surprising benefits of battling cancer through a pandemic. Who hasn’t gained weight this past year? Being isolated while adjusting to the “new normal” of hair loss and fatigue turned out to be a blessing and what better time for the world to shut down and mask up while your immunity plummets.
Yes, Terry, our trooper, is getting through this “blip on the radar” with incredible strength, faith and hope. She still has her to-do-list, which has actually lengthened thanks to the forgetfulness of chemo brain. I am very tempted to sit her down, tell her how incredibly proud I am of her courage, and take her to-do list from her. I promise I will put it in a “special, safe place.”