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Columnist
As with oaks, firmly planted roots the key to survival
By Ruth Gesmer Silverman | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 9/8/2008 12:05 AM

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As a native New Englander, I've spent plenty of Labor Day weekend birthdays following the paths of hurricanes and tropical storms, like the ones tracked last week.

My childhood reaction was to worry about the towering oaks that dotted our Newton, Mass., yard. They bent, they swayed, they dropped branches. Not once did it enter my mind that if they gave way to the mounting winds and rains, they might join us in the upstairs bedrooms.

Their roots went so far beneath the ground and below the conglomerate rock, known as puddingstone, the trees seemed to defy anything coming their way as they sought water from the creek behind the house. Neighborhood kids loved to tramp through undergrowth as we played, ignoring pleas from worried parents who watched the creek rise into the middle of our backyards.

This year, my birthday celebrations began when the entire staff at the Glenbrook Hospital Kellogg Center marched into the chemo room, bearing a cake and singing.

I couldn't resist teasing my oncologist that he is a better doctor than vocalist. In a point well-taken, he quietly reminded me that he's kept me going for several years.

The fun continued at a party planned by my older daughter. She's in Dallas and couldn't come back for another trip, but all came off without a hitch. She arranged with Pete, owner of The Continental Restaurant in Buffalo Grove, to deliver sandwiches - both corned beef and thin-sliced turkey - coleslaw and all the condiments, even though the party was not technically a lunch.

Gifts included pajamas, real glass bottles of Coke, books and an obscenely rich dark chocolate cake.

The last time I visited the Boston area, I couldn't resist asking a cousin to take a short detour onto my old street.

Despite new shopping centers nearby, the house is exactly as it was when we left; the trees stand as proudly as ever. The rocks still rise in the front and back and the trees are taller, though they are missing some branches.

They've survived hurricanes. I'm hoping to survive cancer.

• Ruth Gesmer Silverman of Buffalo Grove learned in March 2007 that her breast cancer, originally diagnosed in 2002, had spread to her bones. Her column about living with the disease appears every other week in Health & Fitness.