Anna Cleveland: An oasis from troubles

Editor's note: Here's another favorite submission from our Summer Essay Contest about a memorable day at the beach. Essays will continue in Floridian through Monday.

Published June 30, 2005

Several years of uneventful mammograms had left me ill prepared to hear the diagnosis: cancer. My husband and I stared at each other with open mouths until we were asked if we hadn't even considered the possibility. The answer was painfully obvious that we had not.

Somehow we got to the parking lot with my dignity mostly intact and tried to remember what we'd just been told about my biopsy results. For all practical purposes my mind shut down with the word cancer. It was up to my husband to recall pertinent details.

After using the cell phone to make the difficult calls to our two children, my husband asked what I'd like to do; go to the beach as planned or go home. He had a chilled bottle of wine in the car. We had been planning to go to the beach and celebrate what surely must be a false alarm when I was called back in for a biopsy. I didn't even have to think about my answer. I wanted to go to the beach. I needed to go to the beach.

I've always been attracted to water. It can be soothing or calming or exciting or whatever my needs are at the moment. This day I needed to be soothed and calmed by the water and sand and breeze off the Gulf of Mexico. We walked faster and faster and I talked faster and faster. I had to talk out this new event in my/our lives and try to make sense of it. And after awhile the beach began to do its magic and I started calming down.

We sat in the sand with our wine and watched the waves and the sunset. We raised our glasses and toasted the rest of our lives.

- Anna Cleveland lives in Land O'Lakes. She's now a two-year cancer survivor.