Breast Cancer Diagnosis

My friend and college roommate, Lindsay Gardner, is a professional artist, an author, a mother of two, a foodie, and now, a woman who has endured breast cancer. It is a club that neither she, nor any of its members, wanted to join. Nevertheless, she has put one foot in front of the other for the past year with courage and grace. This week, I’m sharing excerpts from Lindsay’s new essay, The First Days. In her beautifully, chilling piece, she recounts the three weeks following her breast cancer diagnosis. Set against the backdrop of the blustery shores of Lake Michigan and the endless sky above, her writing delves into the free fall in which she finds herself.

Excerpts from The First Days

Three weeks bridged the moment on a Friday afternoon when I read the biopsy report that bluntly stated my triple negative breast cancer diagnosis, and the day I embarked on intense treatment to kill it. In my memory, those weeks take the shape of one continuous fall. I have no recollection of sleeping or waking, of cooking or eating. The calendar said it was mid-March, but no one in our house could keep track of days.

Even the most mundane parts of everyday life seemed to reveal tiny graces that were painfully vulnerable. I watched intently as my mom, who had driven north to be with us while I was waiting for my biopsy results, teach our seven year-old daughter Maggie how to knit. I caught myself staring at our ten year-old daughter Lucy’s profile, trying to record her laugh in my mind to replay later. I lingered by the kids’ bedsides while they dozed off, wondering how many more times I would be able to tuck them in.

At the end of each day, I dragged myself outside to suck in the frigid, twilight air before the sun went down. The sharp cold numbed my hands and face, and brought a soothing pause, like someone holding an ice compress against the whole of me. As I walked to the water’s edge, I felt a delicate film of ice crack with each footstep, letting the soft sand give way beneath it. 

Lindsay’s full essay is available at no charge on her Substack, under the heading, Pocket Change. I encourage you to read it.

Supporting Loved Ones During Difficult Times

When someone in our life is facing a serious illness, grieving a loss, processing a traumatic event, or otherwise going through a difficult time, it can be extraordinarily challenging to know what to say or do. Words seem trite; actions overly simplistic. Sometimes, this even paralyzes us from action. For me, Lindsay’s essay underscores the important of solidarity, love and community during the most difficult of times, when words escape us and the ground feels uneven.

I felt myself tiny against the magnitude of the universe, and the terror and fragility of being alive in it. 

Lindsay gardner

Is someone in your family, social circle or community going through a difficult time? If so, I encourage you to find a way to reach out to them. Whether it is through a quilt, a coffee date, a walk, a loaf of banana bread on their doorstep, a simple text message, all of the above, or something entirely different, support matters. It’s a big world out there and we need each other.

Have you read Lindsay’s essay? How did it make you feel? Have you recently supported someone facing their own version of The First Days? I would love to hear from you.

As always, thanks for reading.


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