I stood in front of my dresser with the top middle drawer sitting open. It was filled with multicolored socks galore, and I was pulling them out one by one. Trying to find pairs and match them, I was reorganizing for the first time in a long time.
I’ve always had an array of different colored socks, but they have become special to me in the past few years. Whether they were themed for Christmas or St. Patrick’s Day, covered in ducks or Mickey Mouse, they always brought me a smile when I wore them.
When I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma about two years ago, people reached out, sending support, get well soon cards, and little presents. One of the first things I received was from a close friend of mine from school at the time. She was in town for a doctor’s appointment and happened to be around during one of my first chemo infusions. She came and saw me, bringing with her a pair of bright pink and blue Mickey Mouse socks for me.
“I thought they would go good with your Crocs,” she said with a smile.
And they did.
The summer that I was diagnosed, I wanted something that would bring me joy and lighten my spirits. So naturally, I purchased a pair of Crocs. They were a bright teal, and I would wear them to every single chemo. I bought an array of Jibbitz, or little charms to stick in the Crocs, one for each week of treatment.
The Jibbitz ranged from the Mystery Machine, to the Little Mermaid, to a white daisy. I ended up with eleven charms, eight for each week of chemo and three for each week of radiation. These charms became a symbol of hope for me. Each charm was one step closer to remission. One step closer to being done with treatment.
When my friend brought me those socks, it sparked a new idea. I wanted to get as many crazy, wacky pairs of socks as I could to wear to chemo, along with my charm-covered Crocs. I ended up with a lot. Some were covered with pineapples, stripes, pandas, or polka dots. They were just one more way that I could power through chemo especially and get to the finish line of my treatment.
Two years later as I stood over my bed, which was now covered with at least thirty pairs of socks, it took me back. Back to the days of getting up in the morning and going to the Cancer Center. Days of lying in bed nauseous and exhausted. While it hurt to remember some of these things, I was also able to remember the good for the first time in a while.
I hadn’t thought about that friend and the socks she got me in so long. We had grown apart over time, and we haven’t spoken in ages. While it’s hard to think that some friends I had before cancer aren’t around now for one reason or another, it’s getting easier to look back on the moments where I felt supported and cared for, regardless of what the future held for our relationships.
Some days I look back and think that I didn’t get the support that I needed. But, the more that I think about it, the more I realize I don’t think I could have ever gotten the support that I truly wanted from people who haven’t been through what I was going through. I was putting too much pressure on people who were just doing their best.
Maybe they didn’t text me as much as I would have liked, but maybe the same went for me.
I’ve never been good at asking for help, and that season was one where I needed to learn to. When I would cry in my room, overwhelmed by the pressure and severity of what I was facing, I wouldn’t reach out to anyone, because who would understand? How could I ever explain what I was going through, if I couldn’t even truly understand it at the time?
After a while, I would still wear my Crocs to appointments, but they had lost their spark. I would look down at them and see something that felt so contrary to what I was going through. Something so bright and cheery didn’t belong in the Cancer Center. How could people hold onto hope when their world was spinning and they didn’t know what tomorrow would look like?
I’ve never been one to give myself enough credit, but these days, I’m able to look down at my Crocs and think, “Wow. I did that. I made it through.” I’m not able to think like that all the time, but I’m learning to celebrate my victories bit by bit.
The Crocs and socks that I collected through this season of life are a reminder of what I have done and how I survived despite the loss of friends, closing myself off to people, and even losing hope for a period of time.
Sitting on my bed all these months later, I get to look back at the socks that brought me as much joy as something so seemingly mundane could.
Sometimes, it can be the little things that bring you through. Like Crocs and socks.
All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer. If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you! Please submit your idea at https://elephantsandtea.cdn-pi.com/contact/submissions/.