The Friday Photo
A weekly photo inspired by art, community, and spontaneity
July 27, 2012
I’ll never win the lottery because I don’t buy tickets. But I took home a grand prize when I applied for a retreat at the Wind River Cancer Wellness Retreats nestled in the North Carolina mountains near Asheville.
When I arrived on the appointed Thursday afternoon, Shannon, one of the retreat directors told me who I would room with, hesitated, and said, “No, I think you need to be with Naima.”
All of us soon to be good friends were sitting together early that evening, and when Naima arrive, someone whispered, “Oh, she is so beautiful.” And Naima was.
Wigs were shed by Friday morning, including Naima’s stunning page boy style. We were there to let our hair down, and that was especially important for the women who had no hair or were growing theirs back.
We drummed, we painted, we walked, we read, we slept, we shared and cried, cooked, learned Taichi, and experienced incredible healing touch therapy (I was completely amazed by it, just like those who are sure hypnotism won’t work on them).
Young women talked about balancing work, young children, and chemo. And hard decisions to come, like whether, with a seven month old baby at home, it was the right time to lose a breast to cancer.
And Naima smiled all day, so broadly. She even belly danced when we drummed on Saturday night. But her pain was so real, the uncertainty so heavy, a dark diagnosis weighing on her as her cancer had spread through her abdomen. She had a beautiful daughter who would graduate from high school in the spring. Naima wanted to be there for Jasmine, and she was.
But by late June, despite new treatments which gave her a little more time, at least enough to get to graduation, Naima’s long and painful fight came to an end.
Later today, the women who came to know Naima over a four day retreat, all of us strangers when we arrived, and all of us now friends in a way that only we may truly understand, will remember Naima for the survivor she was up to the end.
Each of us will write her name on an “In Memory Of” bib and pin it to our shirts, and we will, most likely, tearfully, ride together as survivors in a cancer event in Charlotte.
Wind River brought us together, and we are lucky to come back together today, healthier now on the most part, but without one, the one who was so beautiful one of us had to say so.
I will always owe a huge debt of gratitude to Wind River, to Shannon and Dave who open their homes to survivors in all stages of treatment and health. I got lucky when I rushed my application in, but I was even luckier when Shannon hesitated and said, “No, I think you need to be with Naima.”
You can find out more about Wind River and support them in a special event today called One Vote/One Day Only-Make a Difference that could provide them with a Toyota Prius to extend their outreach to cancer patients.