Wear Your Good Socks!

I met Deborah, a fellow blood cancer thriver at a gala to raise awareness and donations for Epic Experience, a camp for adult cancer survivors. She was a lovely woman with a kind spirit and spectacular arms, I would learn later she was a yoga instructor – hence the arms. I could immediately tell that she and I would get along famously.


On a recent call between us we laughed over how out of touch we both were with technology, she not knowing anything about FaceTime or Skype and me admitting to being inept at all forms of social media. We then talked about the real stuff, the things that matter.


She admitted she felt her cancer was underappreciated by her family in its severity to her mind, body and spirit, and I explained to her I had no idea how my husband stayed with me through my ups and downs of treatment. We both agreed there was often a great lack of understanding between patient and caregiver.


Deborah and I chatted about several other things including how she felt guilty after we last spoke because my cancer was worse than hers. And I assured her I understood that feeling as I too wrestled with guilt when someone in my cancer group relapsed or passed away while I was thriving. “It’s natural, Deborah,” I said, trying to convince both of us.


We talked in great detail about perspective and what I think of as the cancer shift, when a person’s perspective is forever altered because of their diagnosis – where the sun looks brighter, the clouds seem less and life feels more precious.


Deborah confided in me that the further she is from her actual treatment the less perspective she has regarding the cancer shift and the more she falls back into her old ways and habits. She went on to say that she had even stopped wearing her good socks.


“What do you mean by wearing your good socks,” I asked.


“When I was at my sickest during treatment I could see clearly and I totally understood what was important, like wearing my good socks,” she said. “I had been given these really nice, expensive socks made out of Smart Wool. They were warm and cozy and I really liked them but I refused to wear them, thinking I would hang onto them until just the right time. So, I left them in the package for years. When I got sick I decided to wear them. But now, two years after treatment, I have stopped wearing my good socks, waiting again for some special reason to wear them. But what am I waiting for?”


As Deborah was talking I sat on my bed with the phone up to my ear, chuckling to myself as I looked down at my own twenty-dollar bright pink and black socks that I was wearing with the words, “You’re Killing my Vibe” emblazoned on them. I smiled to myself as I recognized that I too had previously held onto my expensive socks.


Deborah and I discussed this at length and we both agreed that the better we felt the easier it was to stop being honest with ourselves, start listening to the noise of the world again and forget what was truly important. As we hung up the phone that day, we promised each other we would each make a concerted effort to never forget what we had learned through our cancer shift.


To dovetail on the sage words of advice and relationship columnist, Erma Bombeck, “If I had my life to live over, I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculpted like a rose before it melted while being stored,” and I would have worn my good socks.