Pink streamers and happy tears

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Posted 2/07/17 (Tue)

Passing Dreams
By Steve Andrist

Ever seen four burly, grown men reduced to tears?
If you’re like me, the only possibility of such a scenario is if they were all emotionally invested in the wrong team in the Super Bowl.
But this was the day before the Super Bowl, and trust me, none of them had a team in the big game anyway.
Nevertheless, four of us macho he-men, weight averaging somewhere north of 220, were reduced to tears Saturday by a 5’3”, 118-pound woman with the strength and courage to bring us to our knees.
And we were happy about it.
Ecstatic, actually.
Our three sons and their families, you see, had come for a special celebration. It involved pink streamers, pink balloons, pink tablecloths and napkins, pink hearts, pink champagne, that pink confetti stuff that we’ll be finding in nooks and crannies for weeks, and pink cupcakes.
The centerpiece was a two-foot by four-foot banner, nearly a quarter of it consumed by a picture of Nana B’s larger-than-life beautiful face and bald head.
The rest of the banner, in letters about 10 inches tall, proclaimed: “She kicked cancer’s butt!”
And by God -- and with his help -- she had.
Earlier in the week, Nana B, wife, mother and grandmother, had put the finishing touches on 12 weeks of debilitating chemotherapy and a month of radiation treatments.
As is customary at many cancer treatment centers, her last treatment concluded when the staff at the Bismarck Cancer Center led her to a bell mounted on a plaque and affixed to a wall. Inscribed on the plaque is a version of a verse penned by Irve Le Moyne and read every year by thousands of cancer survivors:
I will ring this bell,
three times well, 
a toll to clearly say,
the course is run,
the treatment done,
and I am on my way.
With vigor and gusto she clanged the bell three times, secure in her belief that she had not only finished her treatment but had kicked cancer’s butt.
Women have actually gotten quite good at this.
In 2017, nearly 200,000 breast cancer patients in the United States will reach the bell-ringing stage, thanks largely to the growth in mammography use and the miracles of medical science.
Through it all, every one of them will have shown strength and courage that we big burlies witnessed first hand in Nana B.
And so it was that we came to celebrate.
When the women folk suggested they’d like to take her for some celebratory shopping, the men folk sprang into action.
We figured out how to hang the pink streamers from the doorways and to decorate with pink balloons.
The kiddos wrote love messages on them and drew pictures.
We got the pink tablecloths into place and topped them with pink paper plates.
We placed the pink champagne into a pink bucket filled with snow and set it on the back step with a message for Nana B to bring it in.
It wasn’t pretty, but it definitely was heartfelt.
When she entered the house, bucket in hand, we erupted in cheers from the heart.
Being the husband, it fell to me to pop the cork and offer the first toast.
I tried. Really, I did.
But the lump in my throat and the sting of salty tears turned both my tongue and brain to mush.
Knowing that I just had to set a tone that would allow other family members to chime in I blurted something about “you guys are the best” and raised my glass, proclaiming “cheers!”
It didn’t really work. The three burlies who followed me suffered from similar afflictions, but managed as ineptly as me to get to the cheers part.
As we clumsily wiped our tears, 5-year-old Eva perceptively brought us back to the reality of the day.
“Nana B,” she asked.
“Are they happy tears?”
Yes Eva.
Very, very happy.