Weathering the Storm

Just a year ago, Sonya sat in my office, a debate raging inside her head. She and her partner, Nate, had agreed to share their powerful story as ambassadors of our cancer charity.  When I asked if she had a photo to accompany their story, her expression changed to anguish and indecision.

“I have one that would be great, but I don’t know if I’m ready to share it,” she said, tears filling her eyes.

Sonya and Nate are in their 30s.  She is petite, with gorgeous olive skin and big, velvety-brown, doe-like eyes. Her love for Nate poured ridiculously from those eyes (in the best possible way) at the very mention of his name.  He is her rock, she told me. But sometimes even the biggest rock is not protection enough from one of life’s violent storms.

They had been together for a year when the storm hit:  Nate was diagnosed with cancer.  Still reeling from the news, one month later, Sonya received her own cancer diagnosis. Determined to get through it, they came to our cancer wellness centre to learn how to live their best life with cancer.  Now they wanted to give back by helping with our fundraising campaign.

“OK, I’ll show you the photo,” Sonya said, putting an end to her internal debate. She swiped through her camera roll then held her phone up, tears now streaming freely down her face.  Upon seeing it my eyes well up too.

In the selfie, they are propped up on white pillows.  A chemo port is taped to the top of Nate’s bare chest. Despite his illness, he looks strong and handsome and I can see why he is her port in the storm. Sonya lies next to him, her hand wrapped around his bicep, her small, bald head on his shoulder. Despite the obvious signs of illness, their youth, love and beautiful souls shine through their eyes and wide smiles.

“My hair is just growing back,” she said, self-consciously touching her short black hair.  “Here, I’ll show you another one.” Her finger swiped deftly across the screen before she held the phone up again. In this photo, Sonya leans back against Nate, who is standing behind her, his arms looped around her waist, hands clasped on her stomach. Her glossy, black hair cascades almost to her waist like a  shiny, dark waterfall.  They are healthy and strong and yet, to me, they are every bit as beautiful in the first photograph. In the end, Sonya created a collage of the two photos for our campaign.

This year, we have a new campaign ambassador but Sonya and Nate offered their help again. They sent a note saying they were cancer-free and busy with the new home they had just bought. They also sent a recent picture. In it, they are seated side-by-side, heads together, smiling broadly at the camera.  And Sonya’s hair is up in a big, thick, lustrous bun.


Written for December 13th “Word of the Day”:  Protection


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