Several years ago, I met a wonderful woman named Trudie. She learned that I was going to start treatment for breast cancer and she offered to help me in any way she could. Unlike many offers of help people made, she meant it. She contacted me several weeks into treatment and offered to sit with me during chemo. We talked about meditation and aromatherapy as ways to reduce stress, but I admitted that I didn’t know a lot about these methods. So she asked me about my interests and our travels and my fondest memories. She told me that these memories could be my “happy place” that I could go to when treatment became too much to bear. I told her about two memories.
My first response was to tell her about how my son, Steven asked me in Kindergarten who my favorite artist was. Not knowing a lot about art, I responded Monet, because I loved his water lily paintings. He nodded and said, “My teacher’s favorite is Monet too. But I like Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings.” I blinked. I remembered Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting, but had to look up his sunflower painting. Year’s later, our family took a trip to Europe and we went to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I will never forget standing behind Steven as he stood and stared at the Sunflower painting. He was a grown adult, but I swear I could see the five year old boy standing next to him. It brought tears to my eyes, but in such a beautiful way.
The second memory was of our family travels to Colorado and staying in a lodge in the mountains. I told her about how every evening, we would open the windows and let the cool air in, and wake up to ice cold noses and the faint scent of campfire. She listened and asked me to put myself back into the mountains when I couldn’t sleep. It worked so well. I often fell asleep with the ceiling fan on imagining a cool Colorado mountain lodge and breeze.
We stayed in a Dude Ranch in Wyoming that reminded me so much of that lodge in Colorado. I laughed as I saw the sign explaining the “room cooling method.” “Open your windows after it cools down in the evening and close them the next morning before the day warms up.” As we fell asleep (hoping none of our neighbors were serial killers planning to crawl into our open windows) with the cool breezes blowing into the room with the faint (I mean really, really strong!) smell of the campfire (which was strategically set just outside our cabin), it brought me back to my happy place. And it reminded me of how far I have come to celebrate 8 years being cancer free this month.