Thirty five years ago I made a connection with the traditional garments worn in German-speaking countries. Living in the Vienna Woods, it was not unusual to see men, women and children wearing beautiful Trachten (the clothing typically associated with Bavaria, Southern Tyrol and Austria) predominantly made with Loden fabric in a beautiful shade of green! I loved the look of these clothes and I still love the timelessness of the style! I was a young girl with a limited income, but I dreamed of owning my own Trachten and saved money as I could.
This weekend, while cleaning out closets, I found the Tracht that I would treasure. As I was saving my Schillings (and yes, I’m capitalizing the German nouns — it’s what is done!) I knew I would select something special and a little bit different. I can picture the little shop in Baden, not far from where I lived, where I found my beautiful cape. I imagine it would catch a few eyes if I were to wear this gorgeous wool cape today, even though the temperature calls for Loden type outerwear where I am living. It’s not typical, or fashionable in this section of the world. Those things never bothered me though. In fact, some might say, I like being a bit less than typical. 🙂
Today I received a phone call asking if I could meet with a nurse at the clinic to sign some papers. I had an early appointment across town, so it was convenient to stop at the clinic on my way back home. It was colder than I anticipated, and as I wasn’t wearing my Loden, I was chilled. It would have been a good day to wear my cape. 😉
Meeting the research nurse “out front” meant the waiting would occur inside the lobby. I felt like a fly on the wall observer, not needing to check in at the front desk and trying to stay out of the way. I spoke with a woman who seemingly had finished treatment and was waiting for her ride. We spoke of the chill in the air and shared smiles. Her smile was understandably tired, but still beautiful.
As I watched techs and nurses call names, I breathed deeply. Memories washed over me, as I remembered how it felt to walk into the infusion room. I recognized each tech and nurse who made an appearance in the lobby today and I gave thanks for them. They are an important part of the memories.
My wait at the clinic wasn’t long, but the memories and feelings would take pages to describe. I sat in the parking lot, and once again breathed deeply. I called my husband to report on the early appointment and to share some quick thoughts. I choked on my words as I said, “three years ago today was surgery day.” We briefly talked about the importance of remembering what we have been through and how fortunate we are. We spoke of a friend of Tony’s whose fight with colon cancer ended much differently than mine. His family said good-bye to him at an age similar to the age I am now.
I shed some tears as Tony and I talked. I shed more tears as I typed these words.
So many times, I have entered those clinic doors. Those early visits involved introductions, education and decisions, when I didn’t know what to expect. Treatment number one came and I didn’t know what to expect. However, I knew it was time to put on a cape. I came to know what to expect, at least to some degree. At every treatment, I wore a cape that represented strength beyond my own, and an army of heroes that battled along side of me. I found those literal capes while cleaning closets this weekend. They remain in the “keep” pile. Those capes are forever a part of me and a part of my story. They are forever worn each time I return to the clinic for lab work and check ups.
Today I could have used the warmth of my Loden cape. Quite frankly, that cape is stunning, in my opinion. If a few heads turn because a midwestern girl is seen wearing something that is not typical, I could deal with that. If I had thought to check the weather and had donned my lovely Austrian cape, the truth would be that it would just be one layer of capes that I wear.
I make no claim to be a super hero or have super hero strength. The super hero capes that I wore through treatment, continue to be worn everyday. Perhaps I’m not wearing them literally, perhaps I am. 😉 I’m forever shaped by each moment. Wearing those capes was important. On April 12, 2015, I published a blog post titled It May be Time to Put on a Cape. I’m thankful I wrote that post and the others that have been shared to chronicle this part of my life. I would never choose to learn what I have through the means of cancer and chemotherapy, but I’m glad to be where I am now. And I’m glad I wrote to remember what was important to share.
In that post about the capes, I wrote:
The very first paper I wrote when starting graduate school was titled “The Preoperational Superman.” It was for an educational psychology course and I was examining developmental stages in children as they related to a specific event in my son’s life. The moment in question was when my son was about four and he was wearing his Superman cape while helping me with chores at home. As he was doing a particular task, I asked him if he needed my help and he replied, “Mom, I’m Superman! You should know better than to ask if Superman needs help!”
That memory still makes me smile and I am holding on to that thought tightly today. Putting on that cape gave my son the power to conquer any task. It was just as it should be for a child and as it should be for this adult. I’m not saying I don’t need help, but I am saying there is value in putting on a cape and believing that I can conquer the task at hand. There is value in imagining a brighter day with happy endings. There is value in believing the best outcome will be experienced.
I realize not everyone shares my views in this area and not everyone shares our tastes in where to invest our imagination. I was criticized, I’m sure with good intent, for letting my daughters watch “The Little Mermaid”. However, they did not go through major rebellions against their parents. I was told to not let our son watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the original cartoon) when he was young. To our relief, he’s an upstanding citizen who is not violent. Thankfully, my daughter who loved Gargoyles is well adjusted and has a tender heart. My Jedi loving, wizard loving daughter…well. she just may be Batman. 🙂
I say all this not to stir up controversy but to remind myself that imagination paired with heroes and princesses was a good thing in our home. It still is a good thing that brings laughter, joy, and adventure to our lives. It brings stories that are used to teach life lessons. Today it brings some youthfulness as I think it may be time to put on a cape.
Tomorrow a new normal begins. (As a reminder, this section between the double lines was written in 2015, before treatment began) It is not an adventure I have chosen but I guess it’s a quest cast upon me. The quest is to conquer this cancer and begin living yet another new normal, living as one that has experienced cancer and has moved on. I may just need a cape for that. I may need the super powers to get through the next step. Treatment begins tomorrow morning. After several long weeks, it’s time to do battle. I won’t lie, I’m nervous, but I also have a sense of relief to be starting. While I’m putting on a cape and going forward, I still am appreciative of the continued prayers and encouragement. This is a team effort, sort of like The Avengers. 🙂
I know I just referenced The Avengers and that Batman isn’t an Avenger, but HE’S THE BATMAN! And I know Captain American doesn’t wear a cape, but he’s pretty cool!
I’m issuing a challenge to put on a cape and conquer a fear. Put on a cape and believe in yourself. Put on a cape and return to the confidence of younger days.
I still face challenges and fears. Along with returning to the confidence of my youth, I can return to the more recent past. I remember that I got through it. Together, my family got through it. I survived.
For the challenges I face now, which thankfully do not involve the word cancer, I don my cape and take the next step. These challenges are mostly of my choosing. They are challenges that involve goals, dreams, and next steps in taking adventures. My capes will always be in style!