The summer that wasn't

The Summer That Wasn’t

As the Fourth of July holiday comes and goes, some say summertime is just gearing up and others say summer is half over already. Summer conjures up many childhood memories for me, as I’m sure it does for you, too. Every year when school was let out and summer months stretched ahead, brimming with possibility, free time, relaxed expectations, family vacations and just hanging out, it felt like time slowed down for those three months. But in reality, those summer months disappeared far more quickly it seemed, than the others. Before we knew it, summer was over.

How I look at summer has changed, probably for good. Sometimes I think how I look at just about everything has changed. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing. I just know it’s true.

Summer now conjures up memories of last summer, which I refer to as ‘the summer that wasn’t’. Last summer was filled with unpleasantness, like too many doctor appointments to keep track of.

Now summer reminds me of my bilateral, uncomfortable tissue expanders and pain pills. Summer reminds me of chemotherapy and trying to prepare for it when I had no idea how to do that. Summer reminds me of sleepless nights spent on my blue, leather sofa where I tried to squelch down irrational thoughts that seeped into my mind more easily in the dark. Summer reminds me of wig shopping on a hot, humid July afternoon when the last thing I wanted to do was try on wigs that felt too tight and made me look like somebody else. Summer reminds me of eating tasteless food and trying to drink gallons of metallic tasting water to wash chemo toxins from my system, which always sounded contradictory to me because didn’t I need those toxins to stay in my body for as long as possible so they could better do their job of killing off renegade cancer cells? Summer reminds me about the hair dilemma I wrestled with, the one about shaving it all off or not when it started falling out. I didn’t.

Of course, some memories about last summer are good ones. My family rallied. Everyone pitched in. Tasks were divided up. Things got done, at least the important things. We learned how to distinguish between the important stuff and the ‘we can let that slide’ stuff. Implementing this distinction still comes in quite handy!

Last summer also had special occasions. One of my nieces got married, which of course, was on a very hot, sultry August afternoon, definitley not a day intended for wig wearing. Daughter dressed up and looked beautiful as a bridesmaid in said wedding. One of my nephews became a dad for the first time. These were special summertime things.

Ordinary summertime things kept happening as well. Flowers bloomed. Boats drove by on our little lake. We watched baseball games, visited relatives and went to a few summertime movies.

Life went on ‘like usual’. Cancer disrupts life, but it doesn’t stop it.

My family and I carried on and attempted to act as normal as we could, which really wasn’t normal at all.

And just like all the summers that came before it, last summer, too, passed quickly.

Now ‘the summer that wasn’t’, is kind of a blur, but at the same time, it’s eerily vivid and clear in my mind.

If I choose, I can replay every detail, but when I do, it feels almost as if I am watching a movie about someone else’s life. How could those things have happened in my life?

I feel detached from the experiences of last summer even though I know I am not. It’s an odd sensation.

I still find it all quite unbelievable.

Mostly, this summer I am grateful it’s not last summer, ‘the summer that wasn’t’.

Have you had a summer (or other season) you would like to forget, but can’t?

How do you celebrate the Fourth of July? 

What is one of your summer memories?

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 The summer that wasn't

35 thoughts to “The Summer That Wasn’t”

  1. I am in the same place you are this summer, Nancy. I keep thinking-okay on THIS day, last summer, I was at this appointment. Or scan, or MRI. Whatever. It was a rough one for our whole family. The summer that wasn’t. Very apt way of putting it. This summer is much better and we are getting out and enjoying it more. But there are constant reminders-like having to check to make sure my scars aren’t poking out from behind my bathing suit top! Or even worse-that my prostheses aren’t floating out of it!

    1. Tonya, Thanks so much for taking time to comment. I know exactly what you mean when you say you keep thinking THIS day, last summer, I was at this apt. There were so many weren’t there? Actually I’m still going to quite a few, how about you? I’m happy you are out enjoying yourself more this summer, but I agree, the reminders are still constantly there. It’s great you can joke about your scars and ‘free-floating prostheses’ fear! Good for you! Happy Fourth and happy summer!

  2. My ‘last summer’ was quite a lot like your ‘last summer’ Nancy..a blur of appointments, radiotherapy, chemo, uncertainty then surgery.
    Hopefully next summer (2012) we’ll both be able to lay some of those memories to rest – for good.
    This year, I feel, is a little too soon.

    My childhood memory that always reminds me of summer was our neighbours beautiful roses that used to cascade over our garden wall from their garden… the gorgeous strong scent, that you only get from garden roses, filled every June and July day.
    Mr and Mrs Brown (lovely elderly couple) always insisted that mum cut as many as she wanted to put in vases in our house – they were always *covered* in greenfly too :-))
    But I loved them and I used to love summer – maybe one day I will again, and I hope you do too 🙂

    1. Carole, I’m glad to hear from you, thanks for commenting! I think you might be right about this summer being too soon to ‘lay some of those memories to rest’. Someday maybe… What a lovely summer memory you shared! Mr. and Mrs. Brown must have been perfect neighbors. I hope you do grow to love summer again, Carole. At least this one should be better for both of us! Take care.

  3. Sorry, but I beg to differ.

    Cancer certainly DOES stop life. That’s what it is.

    For the past two years our fourth of July finds us in Kings Canyon. My good friend Mr. Eckley, died of cancer while I was right in the middle of chemo. His wish was to have his ashes scattered on the General Grant tree. He was a big Civil War buff. We had to wait until I was better, so we chose the fourth of July.

    They wouldn’t let us scatter the ashes on the tree so we chose a large boulder that overlooked the tree. As we poured the ashes into a cleft in the boulder, a strong wind arose and carried the ashes over to the tree.

    Each year we go back and place two small flags at the base of the tree in his memory. I sure miss him. When my son was 10 years old, Mr. Eckley taught him how to make bullets. He was like a grandfather to my kids.

    It’s a 6 hour drive – round trip. We’ll take a picnic lunch..

    Thank you for all your insights, Nancy. Always good reading.


    1. Dianne, You’re right of course, cancer does stop lives, but life in general continues, I guess that’s what I meant. I’m sorry you lost such a lovely sounding friend, but I’m glad you were able to carry out his special wishes; that must bring you great satisfaction and some peace about it all. I think the fact that you go back and place those flags at the base of the tree in his memory is a wonderful tribute to him and an important lesson for you son. Thanks so much for reading, sharing and commenting.

  4. My “last summer” started the day the kids started their first day of summer vacation with the phone call from my doctor “your mammogram doesn’t look good” followed a week later with a biopsy with the results of breast cancer. This week, I got news that my mammogram was normal! So today I celebrated this summer with my first haircut which was really a trim of a few hairs I really didn’t need a trim, but it’s been 10 long months since my hair loss due to chemo and I needed to treat myself to a luxirious shampoo/head massage from my hairdresser. I love having hair again and I finally feel like I look “normal” and not like a cancer patient.

    Our 4th of July family tradition is to set off fireworks at our home and this year I bought twice as many to make up for last years lack of celebration. No one was in the mood last year to celebrate. I can’t wait for the local holiday parade, too. Happy 4th!

    1. Betsy, Oh my, what a terrible way to start your summer last year. I guess you have a good understanding of what I was trying to say in this post! I’m so glad you had a normal mammogram this week, that’s great! And a hair cut too! you’ve had quite a week! My hair is coming back so slowly and so far no need for a haircut. I shaved it off the beginning of November, so it’s a slow return, but it is coming. Your luxirious shampoo and head massage sounds wonderful and it is nice to not have that obvious ‘cancer look’ isn’t it? Shoot off some fireworks for me too!! Enjoy your Fourth and thanks for commenting.

  5. For the two previous summers I was dealing with surgery cancer loss…2009 it was losing my left breast, right after losing my younger brother that totally crippled me emotionally even though I couldn’t shed a tear. I was marking on my calendar when my next chemo session would be. Try to plan around the times I was in the lull of chemo. I was trying to organize things so I could do a little more I didn’t have family help. I finally caved hired a cleaning lady I just couldn’t deal with the effects of chemo and doing housework at the same time. I remember the first time I was in hospital on the second floor lovely decorated rooms, air conditioning the use of a computer in the main room.. I hung out there quite a bit! lol I came home to a weeks worth of dishes in the sink, my being a neat freak didn’t go over well! 2009 I spent a total of 32 days in hospital after each Taxotere treatment.

    The next year had the left breast removed there was a minor suspicion that was enough to have them take it off. My incision was not healing it filled up with infection I had to have it drained twice. It was re-opened left to drain it didn’t heal for nearly 3 months. I learned how to pack and dress my own wound since the nurse never showed up half the time.
    It is July 2nd yesterday was Canada’s 144th Birthday. I was watching the Royal Couple “Duke & Duchess of Cambridge on Capital Hill. This summer I will take one day at a time…Hope for the best

    1. Alli, I’m sorry to hear your two previous summers have been so awful. I’m so sorry you lost your brother and then had to face cancer too. Take one day at a time, I guess that’s what all of us have to do isn’t it? Here’s hoping you have a much more relaxing and uneventful summer this year, Alli. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Nancy,
    I have just found your blog and want to thsnk you for it.

    This is my lost summer, year actually. As far as my oncologist is concerned I did very well with my chemotherapy. And I do know I did well compared to what it could have been like. But chemotherapy did stop my life cold. And I am recovering very slowly from my last taxotere treatment. It is a triumph to be able to be up all day, or go to a movie, or cook my own meals. This summer will be about celebrating each day the things I can do that I could not do the week before.

    1. Kay, I am happy you found my blog, too, and thank YOU for reading it! I really appreciate it. I’m glad you are finished with chemo and came through it so well, although that fact does not diminish the difficulty of the experience in any way. Take time to recover slowly and get back to things as you feel ready. My best wishes for your recovery and thanks so much for commenting. I hope you’ll keep reading.

  7. I sometimes think having cancer is a little like birthing children in that when they’re both over, we forget a lot of what it was like to be in the trenches, and yet as you said, it’s almost like watching a movie about someone else’s life. At least in the having children part, if Mother Nature didn’t help us forget the pain of giving birth, we wouldn’t be as inclined to do it again. Unfortunately, when it comes to having cancer, again, we’re even more afraid the second time around.


    1. Brenda, I’m not sure I’ll be forgetting what it feels like to be in the trenches of cancer anytime soon, but maybe time does help with that. Unlike with childbirth, with cancer you don’t end up with something wonderful at the end of the experience to make it all worthwhile. At least not in my opinion. You’re absolutely right, a second round with cancer is something we all worry about and hope never happens. Thanks for your comments.

  8. Nancy,

    Excellent posting, as always! I can’t imagine going wig shopping in the dead heat of summer.

    We are polar opposites — in terms of seasons. For me, it is winter that brings back those memories. It was winter when my diagnostic mammogram showed something was wrong, and it was winter when I was diagnosed. It was winter when I discovered that chemo had caused premature menopause and my dreams of birthing a child were over. It was winter when I got a scare of a possible recurrence, which turned out to luckily be scar tissue. And it was winter when I endured a very traumatic double mastectomy with reconstruction.

    Many winters have been really scary for me.

    You are right: life does go on, and it’s important for us to pause and take notice of all the wonderful gifts we have.

    I’m hoping that next winter is good for me.

    1. Beth, Yes, wig shopping was not a pleasant experience, although I did have a wonderful sales person to help me. I’ll have to write a post on that whole experience sometime. Mostly I remember how hot is was. And humiliating. You have had some scary winters haven’t you? I’m sorry about that. No season is off limits to cancer that’s for sure. You’re right, we do need to pause and take notice of the good stuff too. I hope ALL seasons are good for you from here on out, Beth. Thanks for your comments!

  9. Nancy, as usual, an excellent missive on the plight of those who trudge through cancer. Like you, I always wondered why we were supposed to drink so much water to wash out the toxins when they are intended to linger in the body to kill fast-growing cells. A real paradox, and one for which I haven’t received a good answer yet.

    I have had two summers like yours that I would like to forget, but can’t. The first was 1996 when I had the lumpectomy, chemo and radiation. That was bad enough. But the summer of 2003 was worse: a recurrence leading to a double mastectomy, hair-losing chemo, and the start of hair-thinning Arimidex. What a combo! I could add the summer of 2006 to the mix, because I was taking Herceptin, but that was a year-round proposition.

    We celebrate the Fourth of July differently every year. Last year we were at our lake house because it wasn’t rented out then, and we saw the fireworks and small-town parade. This year we are invited to a friend’s house for a barbeque and a fun time.

    One of my summer childhood memories is spending time at a lake in northern New York with my parents and brother listening to the radio about the first man landing on the moon. We didn’t have TV at our cabin, so we just looked at the moon and pondered what it meant to have a man on it. It was also my father’s birthday. I’ll never forget that momentous occasion.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post. And have a lovely Fourth!


    1. Jan, Yes, those two summers sound like good ones to forget, but of course that isn’t really possible is it? It’s hard for me to grasp what a recurrence must feel like when it actually happens to you. It’s a frightening thing to think about much less experience. I remember that moon landing too. My family and I were on a summer vacation in the Black Hills. That was a miraculous time in history. Thanks for commenting and I hope this summer is a good one for you!

  10. When our son’s were younger we always spent the long 4ht of July weekend camping in a pop up or tents. (I had son’s, you had to learn to enjoy those kind of activities and I did) Now post cancer and on Arimidex the thought of sleeping in a tent or camper is unthinkable. Last summer wasn’t a lost summer but it was the beginning of cancer so summers will always be something I will look at a little differently. I will always be remembering when.

    1. Mary Ann, I bet you have some good memories of those camping trips. I did a little camping too, with my daughter when she was in Scouts actually, so it’s not always a boy thing. I know what you mean about those sleeping arrangements sounding impossible these days! No way I could do it now either. Do you find you look at many things differently post cancer? I sure do. Thanks for commenting!

  11. Yes Nancy could so relate to this – the lost summer. In my case it’s four summers…. too much treatment and surgery and then depression. This year – at last – I’m enjoying summer. Ice cream never tasted better!

    1. Sarah, Yes, I figured you would relate. I’m reading your story right now and I am amazed at just how long an ordeal it was for you, and it’s never really over is it? I hope you are enjoying this summer, Sarah and thanks so much for commenting!

  12. My husband and I have determined that 2011 will be the year that wasn’t. I started treatment in January and will have my final reconstruction in December – so everything in the middle is the blur of appointments, chemo, surgeries and more. It is hard to make the most out of a summer with everything that is going on, but we certainly try where we can! 🙂

    1. Mandi, Thank you for commenting. Yes, I read somewhere that a ‘typical’ cancer diagnosis steals about a year from your life. Personally, I think it steals a whole lot more than one year. I know what you mean about the stuff in the middle being a blur. It is all overwhelming at times isn’t it? Making the most of it when and where you can. Good plan!!

  13. “the summer that wasn’t”–what a great way to put it. I’m wavering between comparing my freedom this year to last year and being a little afraid to recall exactly how awful last summer was for my family & me. I’m realizing I haven’t quite unpacked all the baggage associated with last summer. The mastectomy was a breeze compared to the infection that followed, and the 27 days in the hospital put a serious kink in my summer plans! Yes, cancer does change us, but I’m determined to make sure it’s not all for the worse.

    1. Pinkunderbelly, Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Realizing you haven’t yet unpacked all the baggage from last summer, I love how you put that! It was pretty awful for you wasn’t it? There were a lot of ‘lost’ days for you! Sorry you had to go through all of that. Cancer is a major ‘kink’ for sure. We have come a long way, I try to always remember that as I’m sure you do too. Here’s to lots of better summers!

  14. , I’m going to try again to send a comment, I think my last comment went twice because it all of a sudden disappeared. In the interest of not having “the summer that wasn’t”, I recieved a call about my latest yearly MRI on July 6th to come in for an ultra sound and maybe a MRI needle biopsy the next day for a “Focus” spot, to get a better look at it. I had reservations for 19 days in Maui with my daughter and grandson, so I kept my reservations and left. So here I am sitting on the lanai having a wonderful vacation! I later saw my written test results via e-mail and it is a “5mm focus” (ABOUT THE SIZE OF THE TIP OF AN ERASER ON A PENCIL) I was totally clear of cancer in April by mamogram and blood work. My sister and neighbor think I am foolhardy. But from my perspective I beat cancer 13 years ago with three lumectomys (I think it’s 13), I lived through severe pancreitis 2 years ago, when I was in the hospital for 43 days. I have a beloved sister who died of cancer, plus 3 cousins and I was with a dear friend when she did after a five year battle with ovarian cance. I am 70 years old and feel blessed by the extra years I have been given. A fun vacation creates memories. If it is the worst, which it probably is because I’m a Brac II carrier, I’ve had a great vacation before I drop into the cancer treatment abyss! This time I will have to have a mascetomy and Chemo. So I won’t have “the summer that never was” this year. More on topic, I had a great fourth,I took a friend, just recovering from surgery, to a fund raiser picnic at the Elks. Took her home to rest and picked her up later for dinner and fireworks. We had a great time! Prayers for all of you! Aloha, Betty

    1. Betty, Thank you for commenting and I hate hearing about that “focus” spot. It’s incredible the words they come up with for this stuff. I think you made a good decsion for YOU to go ahead and take that vacation. You are absolutely right about the memories you are creating. I will be thinking of you, Betty, as you find out more. And what a nice thing you did for your friend on the Fourth. Take care and keep in touch.

  15. I love your posts, Nancy, but at some point in them I always feel like I’m taking in a big suck of air when they hit home. It happens every time! Great writing!

  16. Nancy, I really understand the summer that wasn’t for you and it is so fresh in your mind. I know how hot it was under a wig during the warmest times in the summer. The itching and the sweating was intense.

    At the same time I feel blessed that I have had more time away from that time as I try to mend and heal so many intense memories. I also know the joy of family surrounding me and how lucky I was to have that during such a difficult time.

    For that I feel blessed and grateful because things turned and it was time for me to help my brother who had to deal with so much change in his world.

    You have taught me a phrase that I hear in my mind so many times that helps and that is that we just have to keep on keepin’. In that spirit I wish you a very happy 4th and hope that you can feel all of the love surrounding you.

    Your writing is so beautiful and I love the way you bring me along with your journey as you have me reflect on mine.

    Hugs and xoxo – Susan

  17. For me it was Thanksgiving and Christmas 2017 that wasn’t.
    Actually most is 2018 as well. I try to think back to that time
    for events and I can’t seem to remember any from that time
    without a struggle. I was working in a school district part time and as fall of that year came I thought to myself I
    could do this for the next 5 years or so until I was at retirement age. Well,with all of the appointments and miscommunication through it all the school let
    me go. So now 2 years older it’s difficult to find a job. It makes me sad that breast cancer took that away from me.

    1. Kim, I’m sorry the school let you go. That must’ve hurt. Like I always say, breast cancer is a string of losses. I hope you’re able to find work you want and are able to do. Best of luck to you and thank you for sharing.

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