We all know the old saying, “When life gives you lemons…”. And of course, we have all puckered up from time to time as life tends to give us all a lemon or two every now and again. In an attempt to be helpful, some of us can be all too eager to toss out the old adage to anyone facing life’s struggles as if by making the assertion sour will suddenly become sweet. This statement is positive thinking at its finest. And who doesn’t want to be positive. But sometimes the lemons being served up are well past their prime and it is impossible to turn rotten fruit into any kind of tasty concoction. No amount of sugar by way of positivity will mask the nastiness. You simply must hold your nose and choke it down…sometimes chugging one glass right after another. These are times when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you are getting the short end of life’s happy stick.
I guess cancer could qualify as one of those moments. It would by no means be a stretch to say cancer equals one tall glass of barf juice…juice from the most rotten lemons. Having a flask of this foul but potable liquid shoved in my hand, I had no choice but to swill, swig and swallow. Here is where it gets interesting. I have a major gag reflex. Try as I might to chug-a-lug, all I did was heave and hurl. I decided it was time to protest. To kick up my heels and revolt. Not willing to drink alone, I called in the troops. Life’s libations are more easily tolerated when shared with friends. If nothing else, they could administer CPR lest I begin to drown in my own regurgitation.
I’ve written much bemoaning the loss of my hair…another sour, rotten, old lemon. I will not lie. I hated the idea of being bald. Yet after throwing a fit or two over the unfairness of it all, I began to feel better. One point to note, do you not find it interesting how ugly begets ugly? Not only would I be poisoned in an attempt to banish cancer cells from my being, but my appearance was going to take a side trip to the land of grotesque. I was forewarned of all to come….mottled skin, broken (if not loss of) nails, puffiness, weight gain (every girl’s nightmare) and of course the mother of all horrors… total loss of hair. And by total hair loss, they meant hair on head, eye lashes, eye brows, hair on legs…although this one is by no means a negative. You learn to miss hair you didn’t even realize you had. But I eventually came to terms with it. What the heck. It’s only hair and it will grow back. Besides, I received some good news. My course of treatment would allow me to “keep” my hair through the first 12 weeks of treatment. Three months as a baldy was WAY better than six. The first round of chemo would only cause my hair to thin and only to the point of being noticeable by me.
Well, “Life” must have gotten wind of the insurgency to come and planned its own form of retaliation leaving me hairless from the get-go. Leave it to me to be different. To experience side effects unlike the norm. Always marching to the beat of my own drum, I must say this was one time it would have been nice to have been a conformist.
Seeing this as only a minor set-back and by no means interpreting it as a battle lost, I forged ahead with my plans to laugh in cancer’s face…literally. What did I do? I took my jar of “jungle juice” and threw a party. I called it my “Buzz Me, Baby” party. With friends and family to witness the moment and my sister to “do the deed”, I took control of the uncontrollable and shaved my head.
Suddenly, the bitter elixir forced upon me became sweet. With every laugh and embrace, my happy stick grew by enormous proportions and I had an overwhelming urge to extract more juice from the lemons. Rather than throw the yellow orbs back out into the universe, I was ready to squeeze the life out of them giving me lemonade to spare.
That night tears were shed and laughs were shared. It was a night filled with bittersweet moments. A night of making the sour sweet.
Just so you know, I do believe when life gives you lemons you should make lemonade. It may not always be as simple as “add sugar, water and stir” but I’m proof it can be done. Maybe not on your own, but as another old saying/song goes “I get by with a little help from my friends”. As corny as this may sound, when life shoves lemons in your face, let the love of family and friends be your sugar and laughter be your “stir stick”. Dilute the bitterness with faith and house it all in a pitcher of prayer. Everything…and I do mean everything…goes down easier when following this recipe.