Stories From Wildfire: 10.1.2065

I had only been home from the hospital for a few hours. My double mastectomy was over, my tumor was out. Why was I so uneasy? Maybe it was the absence of concerned doctors and doting nurses…the hospital felt safe. I could float in and out of reality in a medicated haze. I was just another patient there. It was private. Now, Jared and I found ourselves alone for the first time in days. I couldn’t look. My eyes were closed. Pretend you’re somewhere else. This isn’t really you. He knows that. I could feel him. His hands shook a little as he gingerly unwrapped my bandages. The dressing was off now, I could feel cold air against my wounded chest. I opened my eyes, staring straight at the wall. Don’t look down. Don’t look at it. This isn’t really you.

As he continued to care for my wounds, my thoughts drifted to the first days after my diagnosis, particularly the moment I sobbed, repeatedly asking Jared if he thought I was going to die. His voice was firm as he replied: “No. I can’t do this (life) without you.” Trying to lighten the mood, he told me to envision ourselves fifty years in the future, together and healthy, remembering how we had overcome such agonizing circumstances. “Ten, one, two thousand sixty five,” he said. “Remember that date.”

My recollection abruptly ended when I felt a flash of pain from the fresh dressing being laid on my scarred, flat chest. Out of macabre curiosity, I glanced down at my surgical drains; they hung from my chest as if part of some dreadful costume. Suddenly the red color of the wall felt sickening. I was nauseated. It’s almost over. This isn’t really you. He knows that. It was in that moment that the doubt crept in. I knew he loved me. I’m his wife. Cancer can’t change that. My appearance can’t change that.

We stood at the front of the church and said it: “in sickness and in health.” But when I recited those words, I was a bride,  beautiful and physically whole. Parts of me were missing now, sickness had come.

A few weeks passed and Jared dutifully accompanied me to my first session of chemotherapy.

We were the youngest couple in the room. Other patients stared at me. I suppressed my dread and gave a defiant smile to everyone whose eyes met mine. Jared tried to hold my hand and my fingers curled into a fist; I couldn’t stand it. I could sense how desperate he was to do something, anything, to comfort me, and I resisted. I can do it. Don’t help me. This isn’t us…

I had just pulled the last wisp of hair from my scalp when I finally stared at my reflection in the mirror. I had looked, but never inspected myself. I was somewhat of a base model human, my lashes were gone, my eyebrows thin and sparse. Only a few fine strands of hair remained; a pitiful remnant of the thick brown locks I had before cancer. I lifted up my shirt and inspected the scars again. They had healed, but the shock of my damaged, uneven chest still stunned me. I didn’t recognize myself. My mirror image was foreign, my mind couldn’t accept such radical change. I felt some type of indescribable upset; disappointment mixed with anger and a touch of resentment. I tried my best not to let Jared see me in such a vulnerable state. In fact, the thought of him looking at me, at my worst, was unbearable. He says he loves me, but he has too. I’m an obligation now, right?

The next night, laying next to Jared, I found myself wondering what he was thinking of. Was it me? Money? Our sons? How sick I looked? I hoped not. In the stillness, I reached for his hand. As I turned, I bluntly questioned him: “Do you love me?” Perplexed, he stared back at me. The me with no hair. The me with scars. The me without breasts. I wanted to cry.

Stealing part of a line from an old country song, he replied, “I’m in love with you, not your hair or your body.” In the darkness of our bedroom, for the first time in what had felt like an eternity, I believed him. The familiar pang of uncertainty didn’t follow the words “I love you.” The declaration felt authentic, his statement unconditional. “Say it. The date. Say it with me.” Ten, one, two thousand sixty five.

You see, cancer is destructive. It shatters relationships with the strife and tension it brings. However, with destruction comes growth and healing. Although the physical and mental anguish of breast cancer left bodily scars and psychological wounds, it also demolished every wall I built up, especially in my marriage.

It burned my former self to ash.

Jared still tells me he loves me, but now I know I’ll never have to question him again. When old feelings of insecurity start to slither their way into my life, I stop, smile and remember.

Ten, one, two thousand sixty five.

Editor’s Note: This piece has been republished with permission from WILDFIRE Magazine, the 2017 “Love” issue (Vol 2, No 1, Copyright (c) May 2017 by Wildfire Community LLC). More information available at

Every month, Rethink will be sharing powerful stories from WILDFIRE Magazine. Use code RETHINK for 10% off anything in the WILDFIRE Shop.

WILDFIRE Magazine is the only magazine for young women survivors and fighters of breast cancer under 45 years old. Headquartered in Santa Cruz, California, WILDFIRE is a beautiful, story-based bi-monthly magazine published on different themes relevant to young women survivors, from stage 0 to stage IV. Beautiful and ad-free! Visit for more info.

Summer Adcock. Educator, Writer, Wife, and Mother. Diagnosed at age 31. Stage II, ER+, PR+, HER2-. I’m Summer: wife to Jared and mother to two young sons, Max and Brewer. At age 31, I was blindsided with a stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis. I had discovered a lump in my right breast by chance…it was noticed only after I sustained a minor seatbelt injury to my chest in a car accident. With no family history, I was confident that it was a benign lesion. I’ll never forget the day my doctor told me otherwise. After multiple surgeries, intense chemotherapy, and radiation, I am in remission and navigating the complexities of life post-cancer. Despite the difficulty my disease caused, I have chosen to thrive, relying on God and delighting in my many blessings. Formerly an English teacher, I now enjoy staying home with my sons, writing professionally, and various artistic endeavors.

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