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We are survivors

I once bought three small weeping higan cherry trees, and I dreamed of their graceful limbs dripping with pastel blossoms in the spring. Within two years they all were stricken with a blight that caused large sections to suddenly wither and die. Soon one tree perished, followed by another. The third tree was struggling, but still alive. I sprayed it with a copper/sulphur combination, but I had little hope.

"I'm so sad," I said to my husband. "I think I'm going to cut that tree down and be done with it."

I didn't get around to it for several weeks, but one day I took my hand saw and headed to the front garden, where the cherry tree was located. When I stood in front of the sick tree, I looked at it and pondered the situation for a long while.

The tree was about ten feet tall. The main leader and all of one side were dead, but there was a side limb and a sucker coming up from the ground that were completely healthy. Interesting. Something was happening within the trunk. It seemed that the healthy tissue was walling itself off from the diseased portion.

I wanted to give the tree another chance. The surgery was drastic, and I still wasn't optimistic. I sawed off the entire top of the tree, leaving only the lower portion of the trunk that attached to the healthy limb and the sucker. This left a deformed, lopsided tree.

Today I was in the garden, and I looked at the weeping higan cherry tree. It is about thirty feet tall now. When spring comes, its delicate pink blooms will drape over beds of daffodils and other flowers.  It still shows the gaping wound where diseased tissue once rotted away. The large cavity is now hardened and surrounded by overgrown callus tissue, like a thick keloid scar. It is a gnarly tree with character. It is a survivor.

I was thinking this afternoon that I have a kinship with this tree. I am a survivor, too. Five years ago, almost exactly, I completed treatments for breast cancer. I saw my surgeon today, and she told me I didn't have to see her again. It was a graduation day, of sorts. 

Next week is Thanksgiving, and I will give thanks for many things, including air to breathe and earth to touch, and for flowering trees in my garden.

Blessings to all of you,  Deborah

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Reader Comments (14)

Deborah, I found your story very touching. I am overjoyed that you have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah at Kilbourne Grove

Deborah, A very compelling story, well told. Congratulations on your new beginning. May it continue to be as full of beauty and character as your tree.

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHelen at Toronto Gardens

Hi Deb, Congratulations on 5 years cancer free! It's a great feeling. I have been 6 yrs. free of salivary gland cancer. Life is good;-)

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJan (ThanksFor2Day)

Deborah, Helen, Jan thank you all for your comments. Being free of cancer is indeed a great feeling. Jan - salivary gland cancer? That sounds dreadful. I am glad that you are well, and life is good for you, too.

November 19, 2009 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

Congratulations Deb.We survivors have to stick together ;-) Lovely post.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoolsfw

Hello Deb,

What a poignant post. I love how all living things can triumph from sickness. I am glad you let the tree have a second chance.

I am very happy for you and your 'graduation'.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle (azplantlady)

Congrats on winning your struggle. The cherry tree is a beautiful mirror image of your own survival. I'm glad you gave it its chance--hope and the opportunity to grow anew.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermss @ Zanthan Gardens

Congratulations! What an awesome ending for the two of you!

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah of Madblooms

Deborah, congratulations!!! I'm very glad that you got this great news from your doctor! Have a very Happy Thanksgiving! As for the tree, you did a wise thing! I try to give a second chance to all plants which were damaged, frozen, broken, etc. I am writing a post about my survivors. Thank you for your wonderful post and again, congratulations!

November 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTatyana

Hello Deb. Your story is so touching. Congratulations for being cancer free. And so glad you took a chance on the tree.
And thank you for dropping by on my blog.

November 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSujata

Congratulations Deb. As a fellow survivor, diagnosed earlier this year, I can't wait for my 5-year milestone. We both have something to celebrate and be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

November 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterClare

This was a very touching post. Congratulations on your news! And scars such as the one that this cherry have just make their owners that much more interesting.

November 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSylvana

To all of you, thank you for visiting my blog and commenting on this post. I do appreciate your support and kindness. Clare, my thoughts are with you. I hope you continue in good health and strength of mind as well as body. And, really, this is my wish for all of you. May God bless you!


November 22, 2009 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

Hi Deb,
Loved the analogy of the tree. I'm looking forward to completing my cancer treatment and starting life anew. Thanks for sharing.

December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCindee Eichengreen

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