“It’s the rough side of the mountain that’s the easiest to climb; the smooth side doesn’t have anything for you to hang on to.” Aretha Franklin

Wow! This quote struck a chord deep within me that stopped me in my tracks.

A fellow warrior compared her cancer treatment journey to climbing the mountain. It wasn’t the climb to the top (or end of treatment) that was necessarily the toughest, but it is the post-treatment world where the medical community lets you go and support networks fade away now that you are “okay”, so to speak, and you are finding your way down from the “fight or flight” mental state to find the new “normal”.

Everyone, I think it is safe to say, expects the cancer treatment to be tough. There is the shock of facing your potential death sentence (as can often be the first reaction to the news that you have cancer), the potential disfigurement and physical scaring from surgeries, pain and physical limitations afterwards that must be worked through, and there is no forgetting the side effects of treatments (or fear that they will come at the next one).

I think the difficulty of post-treatment (or back down the smooth side of the mountain) is perhaps much less expected. It seems as though it should be easy to gain life back, but there is fear of slipping (or cancer boiling up inside again), trying to figure out how to get my footing and where to focus when still dealing with exhaustion and fatigue, or going too fast to get back to work and life and normalcy, this side seems like it should be easy after all, but sometimes quickly feels like an out of control run that doesn’t allow me to get my feet back under me again.

And so, like a mountain range, perhaps it took me to the the climb of the next rocky face, carefully picking my way, only to climb harder, stronger, and more purposefully. It is tough as it is not the first mountain and perhaps there is fear that the stamina isn’t there, that this time I will fail or maybe I just don’t want to keep having to push myself anymore and a cave for a little rest is just what I need. But there are supports and ropes and friends holding out their hands to clasp mine and pull me up when I stumble, climbing to reach the top of the peak and feel the sun on my face. To look over and see how this peak compares to the last, and to acknowledge both how far I have come and how much more there is to discover as I make my way through the mountain range of my life.

And knowing that sometimes, the only way to get down the smooth side is to slide down on my butt before being ready to stand again. And that’s okay.

With love,

Glenna

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