I am taking a break this month to prep for some upcoming events and to rest my shoulder and lower back, which have been giving me fits with spasms from a pinched nerve for about a week.
In the meantime, a few weeks ago I received an amazing email from my dear friend, Colleen (Schauer) Hansen, who I mention several times in The Unlikely Gift of Breast Cancer. Like a dear friend would do, Colleen is stepping in with a guest post, allowing me to reprint an edited version of her experience as she received and dove in to The Unlikely Gift.
Colleen and I met at junior high church music camp, and she is now a farm wife in central Nebraska who has a heart taller, wider and longer than this year’s Colorado winter. I suggested to her that she—not me—should be a writer.
My sincere thanks to you, Colleen, for allowing me to share this recap!
Hope you enjoy….
February 11, 2019
So…I immediately ordered The Book as soon as I got done reading your email about how to order it. Actually, I ordered two copies of The Book, one for me to treasure and one for my sisters.
I received the confirmation email from BookBaby stating the purchase information, along with the tracking number and approximate delivery date. The possible delivery date was going to be just perfect, as we were expecting single-digit highs for the days, below zero temps for lows and windchills that make everything and everyone stop working. What activity would be more perfect on those kinds of days then curling up with The Book to read?
I watched the UPS tracking number every day, sometimes twice a day—just in case they left the package outside and our new destructive farm dog, named Clyde, got to it before I did! Shipping started out with an UPS number and ended up with a U.S. Postal Service delivery, which was a very good plan since the package fit safely inside our mailbox by the road and Clyde hasn’t yet figured out how to get into the mailbox.
I walked the package to the house, holding it in the tightest hug imaginable, without crushing it—pretending I was holding my arms around you! Once inside my warm house, I immediately opened the package just to make sure the books were safe and were the correct ones. They were. I looked at the picture on the front cover. That beautiful picture that captured everything about what you had just been through. The Christmas card picture that has had the biggest impact in my life! The feeling of pure love swept over me. I cried. With my vision impaired from the tears that freely flowed, I flipped the book over. I saw the back cover picture, and I saw my most treasured friend, my forever friend. A woman who is stronger than anyone I have ever known, so beautiful and very much alive! In that moment I took a deep breath and thanked God for giving me such a wonderful friend. I cried. Again.
I forced myself to not open The Book, knowing if I started reading it, I wouldn’t be able to put it down. Dinner (the noon meal) needed fixing and it was almost noon. I laid The Books in a safe place so they wouldn’t get hurt, but in a place I could glance over at them to know they were here. The next day was another bitter cold Nebraska day and I thought; now I can read it…but it wasn’t until evening when I had control of the remote (TV shut off) and my husband, Harlan, went to bed early.
My world was finally quiet, I was alone to focus and concentrate on every word you had to say. It was then when I got snuggled under my new heated blankie, the one I got from Shane (Colleen’s son) for Christmas, that is so fuzzy, soft and silky grey, just like my new 1-year-old outside kitten, along with my knockoff Yeti full of ice water and a fresh box of tissues.
It finally happened. I was ready to read and to learn! You must realize, my book reading habits for pleasure stopped after high school. I just don’t make time for books. I enjoy reading, but when there is work to be done, I feel sitting for hours reading for fun isn’t productive when I should be outside doing some kind of farm work.
However, this was The Book. The Book that my dearest friend wrote and got published. The Book I was so excited to receive in the mail. The Book that was going to inform me of all the ugliest things about cancer treatments. Her life before them and her life after them. The Book I knew was going to make me cry.
I was finally ready. And I was right, I couldn’t put it down. As much as I tried to keep my eyes from shutting after three hours straight, 12:30 a.m. was showing on the clock and I had to put it down after Chapter 12 and go to bed.
The next morning, after my outdoor chores, I started reading again. I continued to read about all the things that happened in your life before, during and after treatment. The dog stories, the car stories, the husband stories, the work stories, the friend stories, the family stories. I smiled, I learned, I cringed, I felt nauseous, I cried, I hot flashed, I laughed, I remembered, and I cried some more. I felt so much pride, so much pain, so much joy and so much sorrow. In my mind I was riding on that wicked rollercoaster ride I knew you had just been on.
And then it was over. I finished it. I sat again in humble disbelief. To see my name in your book was heartwarming. When I sent those pictures while you were so sick from chemo, I truly hoped it would bring you some joy. I would have done anything I could have for you!
Now as I sit here and try to write proper words to explain how I feel, I think back to the song we sang at junior high church music camp when we met.
Do you remember when we were on “tour” of the musical, singing the final song for our final time, knowing it was going to be the last time we were going to be together as a group, and possibly the last time we would be together because we lived so far away from each other? We all started out singing normal, then the feelings hit. We were both bawling while trying to finish the song, holding each other’s hands ‘til we had to walk off the stage and left each other to go back home with our parents. The song was, Is There Anything I Can Do for You? It has been the song I have thought of when I think of you and our friendship, the quote that I have lived my life by.
I thank God for you, for your strength, your understanding, your desire, and your knowledge. I love you.