TALISMAN: Definition: an object, typically an inscribed ring or stone, that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck.
Tonight, as I write this post, it’s the last game of the finals of the Stanley Cup championships. The last hockey game of the season. I’m not a follower of hockey, but I’m sure there are many players on the ice tonight that have worn the same socks or refused to shave since the playoffs began. Maybe they kiss a good luck charm hanging on a chain before each game, or tie their lucky bandana around their necks. Or the same unwashed “lucky” t-shirt goes on under their equipment. But they know the importance of those ritual behaviors or objects in bringing themselves luck, or confidence or strength – whatever “it” is that gets them to where they want to go. In this case, winning the Stanley Cup.
Dealing with cancer treatment is a bit like that. As one faces a difficult series of tasks, such as repeated chemotherapy treatments, it’s comforting to have certain items or routines that act as talismans – good luck charms. They can also be reminders of your inner strength to get through the day. Or reminders of the love of those supporting you, or the love of your Creator, however you define that spiritual energy.
I had several talismans that I put on every day of the past 5 months of cancer surgery and chemotherapy. It became very important to me that these items were with me every day. The first was a pair of earrings in the shape of Inuksuks. They were made by a local silversmith and I have owned them for several years, but they became my daily go-to earrings throughout chemo. An inuksuk is considered a guidepost and I appreciated that symbolism as I navigated the unknown waters of the chemo process and its side effects. I was also delving into the research around cancer metabolism, a whole new landscape that really felt like it was of life-or-death importance to me. There was a real comfort in putting in those little guidepost earrings every morning.
Interestingly, I ran into the silversmith who had made them for me (they were a special order years ago, as I only like dangly earrings) at Home Depot in the middle of treatment and I was able to tell her how important they had become for me in the past few months. She is Shelley Strong of SilverStrong Jewelry Design.
My other talisman piece was the little bracelet pictured above. It was included in a Christmas present bag given to me by a dear friend who had breast cancer with surgery, radiation and chemo about a year and a half ago. She was an important resource for me when I first was dealing with the diagnosis. She had great advice and experiences to share with me – such practical information! So this wee bracelet, with the word BLESSED in baby letter beads, became my daily companion. It was a reminder to me that I was loved by my creator, my family, my friends and the universe. And that the universe had my back…
Every night it became a ritual to take the bracelet and the earrings off as I prepared for bed, and put them back on each morning. There was comfort in this ritual of putting them on each day as I prepared to meet another day of baldness, uncertainty, possibly unwellness.
Once chemo was over and I was moving out of that mental space into the “after” world of wellness, I felt the need to put both of these things away. They were associated with the cancer process and it was time to put that behind me and move forward. So both the bracelet and the earrings were reverently put into the jewelry box, gone but not forgotten. This evening, for the first time in over a month, I pulled them out for the purpose of photographing them. I still hold both of these items in a special place of love in my heart, but I know that I have moved past the place of needing them. They are cherished and will never be discarded, but are not a part of where I am at now, both physically and spiritually.
Like the hockey players who will be shaving tomorrow or washing their stinky socks, I am joyfully moving into the future while cherishing the talismans that helped me through a challenging time…