Earlier this summer, I had surgery. The possibility of a different type of cancer in another part of me had my doctors concerned. It’s just about all I could think and pray about since this was not the first time I’ve been through the “cancer thing”. Thankfully, my surgery did not show any sign of cancer!

Did you ever watch the sky as the storm clouds begin to gather? You hope it goes another direction; that it is a false alarm. The wind picks up and the smell of rain is in the air. You time the flashes of lightning with the rolling thunder. The signs are there. A storm is on the way.

In some ways, cancer approaches like a thunderstorm. There are subtle signs, an ache, a little cough, an odd bump. They become more ominous and just like a storm, ignoring the signs won’t make it go away. You will need to deal with it. While you can’t calm the storm or make cancer go away, education, preparation and support are in your control.

Analogies always make a concept easier for me to explain, so please let me share one with you. My husband and I experienced our first (and hopefully only!) hurricane last summer when we went to Florida after the death of my father-in-law. While there, we were caught directly in the path of Hurricane Irma. We had flown down and discovered that the airlines move all the planes out of the storm’s path, deliveries to gas stations stop, and whole towns board up days ahead of the storm. There was no escape for us; we had to deal with it. As first-timers, it was very frightening.

So was my bout with cancer. In both scenarios, we were blessed to have the expertise of wonderful people who guided us. We learned to sandbag doorways, put up shutters, store water for drinking and flushing, and all the other preparations for the storm. Likewise, our cancer team led us through treatment plans, nutrition options, side effect soothers and all the other preparations for cancer’s assault. We took shelter with my father-in-law’s gracious neighbors and they helped us find the resources we needed in the aftermath. In the four years since diagnosis, my cancer team continues to guide us through late effects of treatment. For both groups of people, we are very grateful!

When we flew home after the hurricane, we took off just as a thunderstorm was beginning. In fact, in one last hurrah, our plane was struck by lightning on the tarmac! As we left those dark clouds swirling all around us and soared upward, I was struck by the beauty from above. We were past the storm where it was calm and peaceful.

We have been home for a while now, and life is comfortable. Neither of us ever wants to experience another hurricane, but if it happens, we will know that we can deal with it. I’m praying that my family will not have to weather another cancer storm, but I know we can look past the clouds and have faith in the beauty there.

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About the Author

Since she was a young girl growing up in Wauwatosa, Beth Dowhen has loved teaching. Eventually Beth received a phone call from the principal of Wisconsin Lutheran High School asking if she would consider teaching there. After 19 years, Beth reluctantly left the school and students she loved because she had developed an undiagnosed medical condition that left her exhausted after a day in the classroom. For two years, Beth and her doctors tried to solve the mystery. Eventually, Beth was diagnosed with Stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma at the base of her tongue. No one suspected oral cancer since Beth was a nonsmoker, nondrinker, and HPV negative. Beth has received radiation and chemotherapy and some complementary acupuncture therapy, and now her scans show no evidence of cancer. She's returned to teaching, this time as a volunteer parenting coach at a counseling center.

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