Excerpt from Finding Peace

Excerpt from Finding Peace © 2020
A Tale of Resilience
Adelyn Zara

Following cancer treatment, Lynn is not recovering well. She has low self-esteem and thinks of her body as damaged.  She's dating the handsome Donovan who with his daughter Dara, accompanies Lynn and her son Connor to a Cancer Walk.  This is that part of the story. As the author, I reserve the right to change any of this before publication.

Connor drove Lynn to the cancer walk on Saturday morning. As they pulled into the Dodger stadium parking lot, Lynn began to feel tendrils of fear along her spine.
How am I ever going to complete this? 5K? I can barely manage five feet!
“I’m glad you’re feeling up to this,” Connor said as he opened his car door. “It’s good that Donovan and Dara can join us, too.”
“You’re cool with that?” Lynn couldn’t resist teasing Connor. He was so rude to Donovan at the family cookout that she wasn’t sure how it was going to go today.
“Well, please treat him better than you did the other day,” Lynn told her eldest son. “I was embarrassed by your behavior.”
            “Mom. . .”
            “No ‘Momming”, please. You’re old enough to know that you should treat people respectfully. All people, Connor.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“No ma’aming me! You know I hate that,” Lynn said as she swung her legs out of the Civic that Connor drove.
When Lynn mentioned having participated in the walk the year before, Donovan brightened before her. Although his company was one of the corporate sponsors, he had never attended. To walk with Lynn, someone he loved being with, meant that he could go, represent, and enjoy it, too. Even Dara had agreed to come with him, another surprise. Connor had always accompanied his mother, but he seemed especially eager to walk this year.
Connor was peering inside his darkened car windows while his mother watched.
No doubt he’s checking to be sure that there’s nothing to lure criminals to break into his car.
“You covered my purse with my coat, a sweatshirt, your coat, and your hockey bag,” she reminded him. “No one can tell that my bag with its paltry twenty dollars is at the bottom of the pile.”
“Can never be too careful,” he mumbled, then caught sight of the Rues. “There they are!”
Down the hill and across the massive parking lot stood Donovan and Dara. As Connor and Lynn approached them, the check-in area came into view. An aisle made of two rows of pink and white balloons separated two distinct areas of the race, the business side, and the fun side. A balloon archway connected both sides, indicating the corridor for participants to line up prior to the race’s start. People were already standing there.
Off one side of this roped area were little booths – a first aid station, places to check-in and pick up a race t-shirt, food tents, corporate sponsor tents, booths selling all kinds of items, places for children to get their faces painted, plenty of chairs. Bright pink balloons were everywhere, some of them making their escape as children could not hold on.
On the other side of the aisle was a stage where a comedian was warming everyone up, introducing dignitaries and singers between skits, and finally bringing an athletic trainer up to the stage to get everyone stretched out before the event began. During the brief quiet times, live music blasted from a sound system courtesy of Rue LA LA.
As they drew nearer, Dara waved with both arms raised over her head, moving in a frantic rhythm in time to the music. Lynn smiled back and made her way to Donovan who was wearing the bright pink shirt with his company emblem next to the walk organization’s logo. Dara, wearing the same shirt, threw one to Connor.
“Oh! Connor, this is Dara, Donovan’s daughter,” Lynn said as she watched the shirt exchange. “Dara, this is Connor.”
“Um, yeah. Hello. Connor,” Dara seemed a bit stilted as she said hello before asking, “Did you get your shirt yet, Lynn?”
As Lynn started to answer, Donovan said, “Lynn gets a Survivor’s Shirt. You go over there, Peace.” He pointed to a large tent, the word SURVIVORS in bold letters above.
This is what I hate about cancer – maybe more than even getting it. You get seriously ill, then get all this swag and attention that you don’t really want.
“Can’t I just wear a shirt like you guys?”
The three were all shaking their heads no, pushing her toward the tent with the garish sign, exclaiming that she needed the special recognition. Stumbling up to the check-in table, Lynn attempted to smile at the young woman who greeted her.
“Here’s your shirt!”
She handed Lynn a white shirt with the same markings as the pink ones but with the word SURVIVOR scrawled across the back – in pink.

“Just follow this little hallway behind me; there’s room to change your clothes and some special treats just for you. Congratulations on fighting this awful disease!”
Lynn took her shirt, trying to find something gracious to say to the over bright receptionist.
“Um, thanks.”
Beating. fight. Warrior. Courageous. Survivor! As if I had any choice . . .
“My friends. . .” Lynn remembered that Donovan, Dara, and Connor were waiting for her. “Where do they go?” She motioned toward them noting that they all had their cell phones out, Donovan scrolling through emails while Dara and Connor appeared to be taking pictures.
“We’ll show them where to meet you. Your supporters can walk into the Survivor area and wait for you; even eat with you. It’s cool. Oh! And here’s a bag to put your other clothes in.”
The word Survivor screamed out from the cream-colored plastic bag.
Minutes later, her new shirt on, Lynn walked down the rest of the gauntlet toward a breakfast area. Only a few people stood waiting for breakfast. Small booths lined either side, all giving away items that they felt the Survivor needed: a scarf with Survivor blazing throughout the design, a button with the word, packets of food with extra protein, a medal with the cancer organization’s logo. Worst of all was the woman at the end of the runway who greeted each survivor before allowing entrance to the squared-off area. Eyeing Lynn, the woman placed unwelcome hands on Lynn’s arm, saying, “Are you okay? Do you need to sit down for a while? Rest?”
Lynn felt herself shrinking away from the unwanted grasp, yet she tried to be kind.
She means well.
“I’m fine. I just need to find my group,” Lynn answered.
“How about I get you a plate of food? Bring it to you? Would you like a bacon and egg muffin sandwich? Or there’s a veggie option. Would you rather have that?” The woman, dressed in a purple Staff t-shirt, kept her hand in place on Lynn’s arm, turning them toward the buffet table.
Her heart’s in the right place. But . . .
“No, I can get it.”
Lynn tried to sidestep the too-compassionate volunteer.
One more step and I’ll be away from her.
            The woman repositioned her hand on Lynn’s lower arm, then said, “But I’m sure you’d like some help. Just let me –.”
Lynn stopped, jerking her arm away.
“What part of the word Survivor don’t you understand? I’m well right now; I can do this.”
As she wandered away from the hurt-looking woman, Lynn felt a moment of shame.
All she was doing was trying to help. I didn’t need to be that cruel.
“Quite a spread, Peace!”
Donovan’s deep, pleasant voice momentarily broke through Lynn’s resentment of the women, the situation, her cancer. Still, she scowled and said, “Yeah, all you have to do is get cancer, endure treatment, wear a shirt that singles you out, and run the gauntlet of over-concerned people in that line.”
Lynn pointed two sharp fingers behind her, noting that the concerned volunteer was holding another Survivor’s plate.
“That’s all you have to do to get to this line to eat.”
Donovan stepped back from her sharp retort, then took her arm to lead her to the buffet. Here volunteers said little, simply handing out breakfast sandwiches, fruits, and juices. Lynn calmed down during their light breakfast, listening to Connor’s tale of the previous year’s walk which included Owen, Maribelle, and, of course, Michael.
Her large sunglasses kept Lynn’s misty eyes hidden from the group, but her set mouth and complete silence during and following Connor’s tale expressed her thoughts.
Why am I even here? Why didn’t I just try to sleep? Let the others do this . . . No! I promised Donovan that I’d be with him.
Before anyone had a chance to remark, a loud announcement asked runners to take their positions.
“Ten minutes until we gather the walkers! Could I have Mr. Donovan Rue to the microphone, please.”
Donovan stood, then leaned down to kiss Lynn who noted that the Survivors’ volunteers were all ogling her date.
“I’ll catch up with you after I finish this gig,” he whispered.
Lynn tried to smile back. “You don’t need to hurry. I don’t think I’ll be bypassing anyone today.”
Minutes later the walkers were ready to go as Donovan was introduced.
“I want to thank everyone who’s come out for such a great cause. This disease needs a cure. Am I right?”
Lynn noted women nodding, calling back their responses.
“Yes, sir!”
“Yeah, ‘bout time!”
“Donovan Rue, you tell it, honey!”
“Just by participating, most of your fee is going towards research at some of the great hospitals right here in Los Angeles. My company – Rue LA LA – is throwing our support behind this great effort.”
Applause and cheers came from the waiting runners. Donovan ran a hand through his curls and pinched his nose before saying, “And I want to let one beautiful woman in this crowd know that I am with her all the way!”
As the crowd’s cheers worked its way into a frenzy, Donovan counted down. His loud “GO!” and the fog horn blast let the walkers know that they could start.
Lynn took one tentative step.
Okay. Let’s do this thing. I need to push myself to show him that I am fighting. I am FIGHTING, damn it. I want to live.
Leaving the stadium’s dusty parking lot behind, the crowd entered Echo Park, one Los Angeles’ larger public parks, closed off for the race. The scenery went from the brown, open space of the parking lot to a lush green park. Old trees shaded the curving roadway that wound through it. Picnic benches sat near swing sets, while fields for softball and soccer, and large restroom areas made it a complete recreation area.
Soon enough, Lynn noticed that Connor and Dara were walking too slowly as if Lynn was tugging a leash to keep them back with her. Connor looked like he was counting the beats between each step. Dara would pause, then take a couple of quick paces.
This has got to stop.
“Look,” Lynn said, “why don’t you guys walk at your own pace? I’ll catch up with you at the end.”
“What? And not stay with you?” Dara asked. “That doesn’t seem right.”
Connor was nodding. “Mom, we’re here for you.”
“That’s great. And I appreciate that.” Lynn paused, already winded and they had not gone even a football field’s length. “But it doesn’t say anywhere in the rules that you have to walk with me. Just go at your own pace. Get to know one another!”
When Connor looked like he couldn’t decide, Lynn said, “Donovan will be here with me soon. I won’t walk alone.”
“Well . . . if you’re okay with that . . .”
Lynn gently pushed him.
“Go!” Then she turned toward a Dara who was watching her with enormous brown eyes filled with indecision. “You, too, Dara. Get to know my son. Watch out that he doesn’t want to create spreadsheets for you.”
Grinning, Dara skipped to catch up with Connor. Lynn watched them both walk away at a quick pace. When she could no longer see Connor’s dark hair or the long braid that cascaded down Dara’s back, she walked to the curb. It seemed like a long drop down to sit, but she knew she already needed rest.
This is my life now. I must accept the fact that I won’t be able to walk quickly with anyone. That I will always feel exhausted. That others will treat me like an invalid.
Tears built up in Lynn’s eyes as she considered the life that lay before her. Once again, she was grateful for large sunglasses.
God, I hate this.
“Hello, Peace.”
Dark, dark eyes zeroed in on hers, the look one of concern, care, and something else that Lynn could not yet name. Exceptionally agile, Donovan plopped down next to her on the tiny curb. He allowed the silence to linger as they both watched the other walkers. Groups in pink tutus sauntered past, one of the women wearing a Survivor shirt, but also sporting fabric wings. Another group wore purple shirts with their family name on the back. The front proclaimed JUANITA’S TEAM for some; others said JESSIE’S TEAM.
“Multiple victims,” Lynn murmured. Donovan just nodded and reached for her hand.
“Shall we walk?”
He pulled Lynn up to a standing position, kissed her lightly, and then let her take the first step up the hill. Lynn moved almost in slow motion, dragging her left foot so that it scraped along the roadway.
No . . . my leg is not dragging. It’s just my imagination.
Her balance, which her sons constantly teased her about, was that of a person coming home after a long night of drinking – ragged, not straight. Occasionally, she shot a hand out as if trying to keep herself from falling. As she stumbled, Donovan shot his arms out as if to catch her.
“You okay?” he asked, concern coloring and quietening his voice.
“Fine, fine,” Lynn answered, then looked up to say, “I sound like Asia Barber, don’t I? And I’m probably young enough to be her daughter.”
They made it up the hill. Lynn was about to sit down again when she noticed a group of protestors on the corner. Handmade signs were lifted high in the air while men and women taunted the passing walkers.
“Big Pharma is controlling your health!”
“Only holistic medicine will work!”
“God decides who lives, who does not! Make your peace with God!”
One defiant woman wearing a Survivor shirt strutted toward the group and began screaming, “What do you know about medication? Chemotherapy? Radiation?”
“You could’ve beat this if you tried something other than pharmaceutical companies’ poisons,” the big pharma protestor answered, lifting her handmade poster – a pill bottle with a slash line through it – higher.
Walking around them, Lynn could not avoid the exchanges.
Another Survivor yelled out, “Do you know what it’s like to hear that if you don’t do something IMMEDIATELY, you could die?”
“Doctors don’t know everything!” came the response from another protestor.
Another Survivor came up behind the first two who had spoken.
“I pray every day. I’m a Catholic sister, a BVM. I still got cancer.”
“You didn’t pray well enough, sister,” answered the man who’d been calling out about God’s choice over cancer victims’ deaths. He was staring at the nun with cold eyes. “You need to ask God for mercy now. You should have prayed harder.”
“And you do?” The older woman was defiant, forcing her way through the gawking walkers to face her accuser head on. “Who are you to judge me? Last time I looked, only God passes down judgement.”
The protestor, a tall, thin man wearing construction boots and jeans, with a bandana wrapped around his neck, was not backing down either.
“Maybe God has judged you. Maybe that’s why you got cancer.”
Lynn’s heart began to beat faster, a knot growing in her throat.
What did I do to get this? Was I not careful enough? Should I have investigated alternative health care? I didn’t have time! It was life or death; I trusted the doctors would know what to do.
As she continued her mental self-harassment, a gentle hand settled at her lower back, Donovan comforting her without knowing it. He urged her away from the crowd.
Another protestor began calling, “Eat only organic foods! No processed foods! No chemically altered substances!”
“Donovan!” Lynn had had enough. “Please. Help me get around this group.”
She struggled to get far away, around the corner, her foot dragging, causing her to stumble.
Donovan took her arm and swung them well out and away from the growing group of angry walkers and loud protestors. When they were decently away, he continued to guide Lynn over to an empty bench.
“What was that shit?” he asked.” He offered Lynn a water bottle. “People come out to do something decent – raise money to help research – and those idiots are making it into a protest gathering. How’d they even get into this event?”
Lynn took a sip of water, eyeing Donovan’s hand grazing his hair roughly.
“Hey, my big savior,” she said, “it takes all kinds.” Then after sighing, she added, “When I was diagnosed, all I wanted was to get well and do whatever I had to DO to get better. You don’t have a lot of time to choose what to do.”
They sat a brief time before Lynn decided to continue. As they started on the course again, she spied a tall, big, African-American man wearing the pink shirt with Rue LA LA’s logo. Desmond Davis, Donovan’s body guard, was surveying everyone walking by.
“Desmond is here!”
“Yep,” Donovan saluted him surreptitiously. “We can’t get away from him. I told him to take the day off, but Len had other ideas. Insisted that Desmond come along. Cassandra and Len are somewhere around here, too. And some other employees. We make it a big volunteer project for the entire company.”
Lynn forced her concentration away from Desmond, trying to make sure that she put one foot firmly down before picking the other up, hoping that she was not dragging either foot. At the very top of the hill, she paused, looking around at the thinning group of participants. A woman with a walker strolled past. Lynn felt herself giving in to a pity party.
I can’t even keep up with a walker. I guess this is my life from now on: Exhaustion, bad balance, no energy. I’ve got to accept this.
Minutes later she stopped again, wondering if she could finish.
“Donovan, why don’t you run ahead? I know I’m holding you back.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Peace,” he answered immediately. “I only came to this because you said you were going. I meant what I told the crowd earlier: I’m here for you all the way.”
“And I appreciate that, I really do. But why? You could have your choice of women! Many of whom are far prettier, have more hair, and can keep up with you. And enjoy your lifestyle, too! And haven’t been sick!” Lynn whipped her glasses off to wipe away the freely falling tears. “Why me?”
Donovan was not deterred.
“Peace . . . I’ve told you before. You make my life calm. I enjoy being with you. I want to be with you! I wouldn’t come to this thing just because the company is sponsoring it. I could go on a walk like this probably every month to represent Rue LA LA.”
He grabbed both her hands, perhaps a bit too roughly.
“I’m here for you. What do I have to do to make you realize that?”
Lynn sighed, then leaned her head on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Donovan,” she said. “I’m feeling sorry for myself today. I see all these energetic people and I’m not one of them. I just feel so tired all the time . . .”
Donovan put his hand under her chin, lifting her face to look into ocean blue eyes.
“I know you’re trying. . . and I know you like your doctor. . . but what if you were to get a second opinion? Maybe there’s something else that the doc you have hasn’t thought of?”
Instead of answering, Lynn stood up, dusted off her bottom, and began the walk down the hill. The decline forced her into a quicker pace, something she was unable to control.
“Slow down, speedy.” Donovan said as his hand tightened on hers. “You really will wear yourself out at that pace.”
Lynn tried, but the momentum of the hill’s angle kept her from slowing down.
It’s like I’m falling instead of walking.
“First I’m too slow and now I’m too fast! Can’t please anyone, can I?”
As the road flattened out, she paused yet again. There was only one other set of walkers, laughing and teasing one another about being one of the last groups to make it past the finish line. Lynn paused again, placing both hands on her thighs, bending over to catch her breath.
“Lynn.” Donovan was now entirely businesslike, “Do you want me to have Desmond bring the car here?”
Lifting her head to look up at Donovan, Lynn saw the worry that covered his face.
How will I even make it a few more feet let alone to the end?
She caught sight of the race officials, their shirts saying Security, eyeing her with concern, talking into their walkie talkies while watching her.
“Lynn?” Donovan’s tone insisted that she answer him. “Tell me what you want to do here.”
“Yes, please,” she answered in a small voice. “I don’t think I can make it any farther.”
“Hang on. I’ll ask these guys if Desmond can drive up here.”
As he walked over to the officials, Lynn took off her hat, running her hand through the sweaty, short blond strands, wondering if she’d be able to sleep once Desmond brought the car. She watched Donovan nod at the officials, then raise his phone to his ear.
Probably calling Desmond. I am such a wimp.
Ending his call, Donovan was all smiles as he walked back to the curb where she’d seated herself.
“Sorry about that,” Lynn said.
I’m just relieved it’s over.
“I suppose I’m the last one, right?’
Before he could answer, Donovan’s phone rang. Lynn noticed Dara’s name on the Caller ID.
“Dara? Oh, Connor; sorry,” Donovan said. “Yeah, she’s fine; just exhausted. Desmond if bringing the car from the lot. Yeah, do you want to talk to her?”
He handed the phone to Lynn.
“Hi, Connor,” Lynn said. After a pause, she continued, “Yeah sure seems like it. Ok. Later. Love you.”
Donovan couldn’t resist asking, “Seems like what?”

Lynn played with the brim of her hat before she answered, “Seems like I’m never going to be like I was.”

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About the Author

I'm a wife, mom, sister, daughter, and very much not perfect. My own multiple health problems led me to write about women who experience life's traumas, but bounce back because they are resilient. I strive to bring happily ever afters to all my characters.

On Word and Upward!