Grandmother holding granddaughter and kissing her forehead

I Feel Strong

During the early months of the pandemic, Jenny and I took virtual walks together. We talked on our cellphones while she walked with a stroller and I walked with Moses, my dog. After her chemotherapy treatments were completed, Jenny underwent a five-week course of radiation. Just as she was starting to transition back into normal life, the world started shutting down because of the pandemic. She said that all of a sudden, it seemed like everything was in a state of flux. This made her feel oddly in sync with society.  

She also told me more of what she was thinking during the stressful months of her cancer treatment. She told me that she was afraid to love Lyla because she didn’t want her youngest baby to grow too attached to her in case she died. She told me that the pandemic had given her the opportunity to be at home with her kids and make up for some of the time she had lost to illness. She had finally allowed herself to fall in love with her second baby. 

As I listened to my daughter trying to come to grips with what happened to her over the past year, I realized that the pandemic had given me the opportunity to do the same thing. Last year, when I was shuttling back and forth from Toronto to New York, helping out with my grandkids, I tried not to think about how desperate my life had become. In fact, I tried not to think about anything at all. 

But in the pandemic quieted streets of Toronto, cellphone pressed to my ear, I allowed myself to think again. I remembered the first conversation that I had with my daughter after she learned of her cancer diagnosis. Sobbing into her cellphone she had asked me to take care of her baby if she couldn’t. And I remembered my own response, blurted several seconds later. I told her that I was not worried about her baby, but I was worried about mine. I remembered the joy and relief I felt when Lyla was delivered. I remembered the endless days in my daughter’s chemotherapy suite and the giddy celebration when her treatment finished. 

As the world around me was gripped by pandemic hysteria, I finally felt calm. My daughter was getting her life back and so was I. I knew that life was fragile, but I felt strong. – Alexandra Raphael


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