Cicadas always sound the same.

Last year I sat in a wicker rocking chair on the porch of my college house. The chair rocked steadily back and forth to the sound of cicadas. Their chirps came through like reverberating waves, loud and then subtle, loud and then subtle. The night air was a taste of the approaching fall and my junior year was a promising bloom. I am now sitting on that same porch.  The same wicker chair rocks to the same sound of cicadas. The night air has the same promise of fall.

In the midst of all the things that happen in a year’s time there is serenity in knowing some things stay the same.

In June I was deemed officially in REMISSION! A lot of worrying, two surgeries, one radioactive iodine treatment, and seven weeks of radiation later- remission was a beloved sight. It was the perfect start to the most magical time of the year. I spent the summer basking in the news and in the Southern California sunshine. The tribulations of the months before were nothing but a faint memory in the back of my mind. Good riddance.

As summer drew to a close, I said some tearful goodbyes to my family, friends, and boyfriend, and made my way back to college. It had been nine months since I had sat on the porch of my house, since I had seen many loved faces, and since I had put my nose in the books. There may or may not have been some hefty sobs as the plane took off from San Diego, but I assure you there was nothing but laughter when I was greeted by my best friends holding “welcome home” signs and blowing on kazoos.

When I sat on this porch a year ago I had no comprehension of what the coming months held. Little did I know, Harry the tumor was coming with the promise of fall and my junior year wouldn’t bloom the way I thought. But you know what? That’s okay. Cancer got its ass kicked and the cicadas always sound the same.

The Waiting Room.

When I began my seven weeks of radiation my doctor told me I would be sick of him by the end. Boy was he right.

I tried to have the upper hand on the radiation but I underestimated its effects. The doctor told me about them. My parents and sisters cautioned me to be aware of them. Thankfully, I was able to be active for the first month of treatment. The rest of it has consisted of watching seven seasons of How I Met Your Mother. I am beginning to thing Lily, Marshal, Robin, and Ted are my actual friends. Of the seven weeks and only had one major breakdown. I’d say that is not too shabby.

It was the day of my 21st birthday extravaganza that my wonderful friends had planned. I had errands to run and had made plans to hang out with two friends. I stopped by my sister’s house after an errand gone sour and was fighting back tears. I sat on the couch next to her and when she asked what was wrong I started sobbing. Through my tears I managed to say, “I’m just so tired.” She held me as I cried, like any wonderful big sister would, fed me macaroni and cheese, and then sent me to bed. I felt like I was 10 years old again. I woke up with enough energy to be initiated into my 21st year of life in a rightful manner.

There have been a few highlights hidden within the treatments. Firstly, they have free coffee in the lobby. Major points. Secondly, the staff is so extremely welcoming and kind I often felt like I was walking into a spa rather than into a treatment center. Thirdly, on my birthday the therapists gave me the best cupcake I have ever had. I am not exaggerating. Fourthly, my boyfriend came with me yesterday because he wanted to see what I have been going through everyday. At first I thought he probably wanted to make sure it wasn’t all a pretense that allowed me to eat ice cream and get back massages from him, but I was wrong. It meant a great deal to me. Lastly, I spent seven weeks sitting in a waiting room full of incredibly strong men and women.

Today I walked across the parking lot of the radiation center for the last time. My face was tickled by the slight mist brought on by the june gloom and a hospital bracelet was loosely hanging on my right wrist.

I walk inside I’m greeted by Cameron and his jolly voice, “Hello Miss Allyson. How are you? I’ll get you all checked in.” I smile and exchange a few moments of pleasantries before I head back to the waiting room.

When I enter, the elderly man with mouth cancer sits on the right side with his wife. Their hands are intertwined every time I see them. When the therapist comes to get him, his wife walks him to the door and gives his hand to the therapist. He kisses her on the cheek each time.

Christine sits against the back wall with her mother. In October she was diagnosed with three types of breast cancer. She has gone through Chemo therapy and is halfway through her radiation. Christine is in her mid-forties but floats through the waiting room like a little girl without a care in the world. Right when I arrive Christine is taken for treatment. Her mother, Beth, tells me about her daughter’s journey through cancer and the positive attitude that has saved her daughter’s life. She asks me questions about my cancer, school, my family, and how many treatments I have left. On Monday she laid her warm, wrinkle clad hand on my knee and told me how hard it was for a mother to watch her child battle cancer. She would give anything to be sick instead of Christine. Beth’s burdened grey eyes stared at her lap for a moment and when she lifted her head she smiled and said, “Well my sweet, this is your last week, is it not?” My therapist calls me back just as I nod my head yes in confirmation. “I am very happy for you,” She concludes.

A middle aged woman sits next to Christine and her mother. Everyday she asks if we mind if she changes the channel on the television and everyone always says of course not. She always changes it to Right This Minute on ABC and every few minutes they play something that makes her chuckle.

About ten minutes after I get there an elderly woman comes in and offers a cheerful “Good Morning” to us. We smile and offer it back.

I sit on the left side of the room next to a woman in her seventies who ask me the time every single morning. When the therapists are running late she gets a little irked. She tells me she is a stickler for promptness, but I think she wants to get out of there as fast as she can.

There is something spectacular about the bonds people make when undergoing similar trials.I barely knew the people in the waiting room. I had never said more than “good morning” to some of them. Yet, we were comrades. We experienced physical exhaustion, not so pretty radiation burns, daily discomfort, and the emotional struggle of the aforementioned. We all wore our hospital bracelets on our right wrist, were greeted by Cameron every morning and chatted with our therapists as they set up the machines.

Today my therapists called my name for the last time and I could not have been more excited to get my last treatment over with. Happy as I was I couldn’t help but feel a pinch of sadness at the thought of not knowing what would happen to those still in the waiting room.

After my treatment I took my radiation mask, hugged the therapists, and opened the door to the waiting room one last time. I walked in and my comrades applauded. Christine’s mother hugged me and told me to “be proud and get healthy.” The woman who is a stickler for promptness kissed my forehead. Some of them had a long and hard road ahead but that did not stop them from genuinely rejoicing for me.

People, cancer doesn’t deserve my tears but their empathy sure as heck does.

It’s on like King Kong.

The Empire State Building.

It stands tall in the heart of a magnetic city. It is an international icon, a symbol of what man can accomplish, a beacon of romance and marvel.

Carey Grant stands on top of the grandiose building yearning for Deborah Kerr to appear and affirm her love for him in An Affair to Remember.

King Kong scales the sky scraper because it is the closest thing to his mountain top home on skull island. He stands at the top of the 1,250 foot building and valiantly beats his chest in an air of rebellion as planes circle him attempting to bring on his demise.

King Kong beating his chest on top of the empire state building was an image that danced in my head during my first radiation treatment. How did my thoughts turn to King Kong you ask? Let me tell you.

I was noting that the median age of the room was somewhere around 71 when my radiation therapist fetched me from the waiting room

“Did you make a playlist to play during treatment?” She asked.

I hadn’t. But the Lumineers album would get me through the 15 minutes on the cold metal table just fine until I put together a proper compilation.

A tight plastic mask was put over my upper body just as the Lumineers began to croon about how classy girls don’t kiss in bars. I pondered what songs I would like to listen to while I laid underneath the radiation beams everyday.

What was that band Tessa saw the other day? I thought. Ahh King Khan and the something or others. I wonder if they got their name from KING KONG.

And thus I began to think of King Kong. The massive gorilla who, when perched on that remarkable building, fights back with courage and a beat-on-your-chest vigor. Give or take a few physical characteristics and personality traits, I want to be like King Kong. You may think I am trying to evoke some hidden symbolism, but I really just want to stand on top of the Empire State Building and pound my fists against my chest. I mean, imagine the view.

After I left my first treatment I received terrible news. Aquamarine, our beloved Mercedes, was going to be sold for scrap metal. This car was as iconic in the Beasecker household as the Empire State Building is to New York. Aquamarine shuttled my sister and I around for four beautiful and memory filled years.

I will always remember the day I had my first treatment as the day Aquamarine was laid to rest.

She has been replaced with a Toyota. This car may not be as dear to us as Aquamarine, but my brother says that Toyotas run forever on soy sauce and laughter. We will see if that is true. She has been faithful in shuttling me to treatments each morning, so I suppose she isn’t too bad.

Two weeks after my first treatment I met with the my radiation doctor. He walked into the room, greeted me, and then asked, “Have you been tanning?!”

“Uhh…” I replied. The day before I had spent quite some time basking in the warmth at the beach. “I’ve been surfing.” It wasn’t a complete lie.

“You can’t do that,” He then proceeded to tell me the reasons why I could not spend time in the sun or go in the ocean. They were very good reasons but do you think King Kong did everything he was supposed to?

I went surfing that afternoon. Shhh, don’t tell.

Today, I began my third week of radiation and wednesday will be my half way point! I am beginning to feel the side effects. I am experiencing some pain in my throat, difficulty swallowing, feeling fatigued, and sometimes sound like a chain-smoker. Its to be expected and it will get worse before it gets better. But hey, King Kong was shot off a building and many cancer fighters have it much, much, much worse.

For the next four weeks its on like King Kong.

I’m mostly worried about not being able to swallow a burrito. What do you think it would taste like after being blended?

I will get back to you on that.

“Yet it would be your duty to bear it, if you could not avoid it: it is weak and silly to say you cannot bear what it is your fate to be required to bear.”

-Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Kentucky meets the West Coast and a needle meets my behind.

I stood in the parking lot of Jamba Juice with five of my best friends and my sister. With smoothies in hand we begrudgingly began to say our goodbyes. I racked my brain for ways to get them to delay their departure.

“We should go get coffee with so and so, they want to say goodbye.”
“Oh look, the sun is coming out. We should go tan.”
“Maybe we should make a quick trip to Mexico.”

No avail. Rewind to four days prior.

It is 2 o’clock in the morning. I am asleep on the couch and awaken to a knock on the door and voices drifting through the house. Immediately I shake the sleep off and rise to my feet with a exuberant jig.

Is this a dream?

In a moment of pure ecstasy I threw my arms around each of the girls in hugs that released nearly 4 months of deprivation. They drove 2000 miles in three days, from Kentucky to California, to stay with me for three and a half adventure packed days. They drove in a tiny car across the country and were exhausted but not once did they complain. How did I end up with such wonderful friends?
What troopers.

The house was littered with clothes and suitcases and looked like it had been struck by a tornado. Multiple cups of coffee were consumed. Breakfast was eaten over laughter. Dinner was cooked with the Pitch Perfect soundtrack playing in the background. It felt like I was back at the house we all share at school and I would not of had it any other way.

Kentucky, meet California.

We surfed, shopped, ate, hiked, had a bonfire, ate some more, road bikes, and laid at the beach. I was determined to give them an authentic California experience.

Their presence gave me overwhelming joy and comfort. I have been on a strict diet in preparation for radioactive iodine treatment and they were the perfect distraction from my growling stomach and did a great job at thwarting my attempts to eat forbidden items. Their enthusiasm to support me and encourage me through a time of uncertainty has strengthened me. The way they carry my burden as their own humbles me.

Fast forward to the Jamba Juice parking lot.

We exchanged hugs and a “catch you on the flip side,” maybe I shed a tear or two, and then off they were to make the long trek back to the Bluegrass State. I was off on a family outing to the nail salon to cope with their departure, because who can be sad when you are getting your feet rubbed alongside your sister, step-mom, and father?

My friends departed just in time to miss my first week of treatment. They got to meet the West Coast, my booty gets to meet some needles. Today I received a shot, a shot in my rear. Tomorrow I will receive a second one, wednesday I will take a radioactive iodine pill, and for three days after that I will be sequestered in my room because I will be radioactive.

If you want to come visit me bring a moonsuit.

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What matters.

“Surfing washes away everything that doesn’t matter…like cancer, it really doesn’t matter,” Tessa said, a hint of mawkish sentiment in her voice.

The sun was beginning to heat the crisp morning air as Tessa and I stood in the beach parking lot preparing to surf for the first time since my surgeries. We were slowly rubbing the sleep out of our limbs and gathering the courage to strip off our warm layers in exchange for chilled wetsuits.

At first I laughed at her remark, but in retrospect her musing rang true and revealed a theme for this season of my life.

Like most winter mornings the thought of the cold water made me leery, causing me to consider retreating to a coffee shop. Thankfully, my inner wimp doesn’t have a chance when paired against Tessa. Begrudgingly I made my way towards the water.

The past few weeks I have had to have quite a few blood tests. Every time I entered the lab I dreaded the forthcoming encounter with the tiny needle. Every time I exited the lab I chided my inner wimp for making an ado about a needle I could hardly feel.

The idea of the cold water is always as dreaded as the blood test. And like the blood test, it never deserves the cringe I issue it.

We made our way out and the chill wore off as I paddled around. My pointless quandaries took flight along with the chill, and I took a brief hiatus from “what doesn’t matter.” The 75% I received on my math quiz, the money I don’t have, glitches in my plans, cancer, the possibility of chemo and a bald head, these vexations were not granted the slightest thought.

When the things that don’t matter are flushed away the things that do matter: the amity of friends and family, the assuagement found in a freezing ocean, a chuckle between friends, finally get the attention they merit.

The sun began to move higher in the sky as I laid on my mustard yellow board and talked to Tessa about the week’s escapade. I was overjoyed that I hadn’t chosen to spend my morning in a coffee shop.

My quandary over the possibility of chemotherapy was addressed shortly after this picturesque morning spent in the water. I paid a visit to the oncologist to find out if I needed the strenuous treatment. There was nothing I wanted less in life than chemotherapy. The only positive item down that road was the promise my sister’s made to shave their heads if I lost my hair. Trust me, you would not want to see any of us bald.

The oncologist told us that because the cancer did not spread I will not need chemotherapy! Instead I will be getting isolated radiation treatment on my neck for seven weeks beginning in March. Radiation is much better than chemotherapy.

Another win for me.

Party in My Cabana.

My house has begun to resemble the inside of a florist. Tulips, roses, sunflowers, orchids, and a variety of other blooms, have been scattered throughout the house. The bright colors and fresh scents were a pure delight during my recovery after having my thyroid removed. Now, as I am beginning to feel my energy return, the flowers are slowly withering, the bright colors browning, and the scent is no longer pleasing.

I could not help but be saddened at this small and natural occurrence. The bouquets are tangible signs of love from friends and family around the country, and now they are slowly making their way out.

As some brightness takes its exit some arrives.

On Friday, I had a PET scan to see if the cancer has spread to any other parts of my body. The scan was what I imagine it would be like to be abducted by aliens. I was injected with all sorts of mysterious smelling substances that caused my insides to feel like they were being heated inside of a sauna. I laid on a table that sent me through a tunnel which scanned my entire body for 30 minutes. I entertained myself by pondering who would be on my team if aliens attacked.

We received the results from my PET scan today.

We were supposed to hear the results this morning, but when does anything ever work like its supposed to. That would be rather mundane. And so the day dragged on without any word from the doctor despite our badgering phone calls.

Waiting has been a large part of this ordeal thus far. Waiting for “the call,” waiting to be prepped for surgery, waiting to heal, waiting to surf again, waiting to begin treatment. Wait wait wait wait.

I used to dislike waiting. Waiting caused my imagination to run wild and produce irrational fears. Waiting caused missed opportunities.

But now, I have grown fond of waiting. We have gotten to know each other and I judged it mistakenly. It wasn’t waiting that was so terrible, but what I was doing in its midst; wishing it away rather than taking advantage of the time it offered.

I digress.

The call came while I was sitting in a massage chair with my feet soaking in pedicure bliss. Tell me, what better time to receive news of catastrophic or jubilant nature. If it was bad news, well, at least I had feet void of calluses and toes with a fresh coat of “Party in My Cabana” pink. If it was good news, I was getting a head start on celebrating.

Inside of Q Nails, just in time to save me from mourning my beautiful flowers, good news came parading in. The cancer has not spread! Come party in my cabana and celebrate in honor of good news.

Cancer and I have a long match ahead of us, but I think this round goes to me.