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Columnist
Taking time to appreciate the changing fall colors
By Ruth Gesmer Silverman | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 10/6/2008 12:02 AM

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It's all around us. Not cancer or chemo. Change.

Changing seasons can be measured in changing colors. At first, subtle - a touch of gold, a tinge of red and finally fiery orange.

Like cancer, the wide variety of species of trees produces their own variations. Unlike cancer, they demand a moment to appreciate and admire what nature creates each year. The intensity or brilliance depends on the perfect balance of water, light and temperature. Too much or too little of one affects the others.

The first thing that happens before chemo is the expert analysis of what's already going on in the system. Each breast cancer patient provides an opportunity for the lab to measure blood counts, not only to make sure they haven't fallen too low, but also to reassure all involved that the chemo of choice is working properly.

I love fall because it shows off nature's palette. Now it gives me an excuse to stop to appreciate those colors.

Patients vie for window chairs, so they can enjoy the view. In one chemo room, there can be from one to four patients. Some opt to doze, others to read and some to chat. Some make new friends, crisscrossing ages that were formerly boundaries.

Today, I met a woman and her husband who were planning a jaunt to the woods to be with their extended family; our chemo-suite-mate was a young mother - only in her 20s - with a 10-month old son enjoying quality time with his grandmother.

All of us had tried to eat well, to take the right supplements, to rest when necessary - yet, we were hit with cancer. Each had a variation on the theme, so each of us had different meds.

In the same stand of trees, some will weather storms, drought, too little or too much light. Some thrive; some droop; some die from a lightning strike. Others wait for the right moment and simply snap over. Those with cancer are candidates for the same mysterious fate.

Obviously, I'd prefer to weather this storm, so I can welcome new green shoots in the spring.

• 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.