A woman looks lovingly down at her heart, which is full of old friends

MBC and Reconnecting: Outstretching a Hand to the Past

In Cancerland, we often talk about the connections we make. My question to you is, what about reconnecting? How often do we stop and think about our old lives, and reconnecting in any regard?

I remember after my stepfather passed away rather suddenly, the hearse drove past his old childhood home on the way to the cemetery. And I thought to myself, "How sad. He never got to see his childhood home one last time while he was still alive."

Revisiting the past before MBC

In my case, I moved away from home a few years later, and so I seldom get to re-visit my past. It is rare that I have the opportunity to see my old schools, homes, or haunts. The other day, I took my daughter out to a coffeehouse. I told her all about my favorite coffee shop that lives beside a train in New York called, "The Cup". We talked about how it is an odd, eclectic little place with white hot chocolate, smushed pie-in-a-mug, open mic nights, and a lot of Doc Martens. "Did you ever go up on stage when you were a teenager?", she asked, wide-eyed.

"No, I never did do that", I replied.

"The next time we are in New York, we have to go there. I have to see this place!", she said.

Old connections

Sometimes I find myself talking about people from my past, too. My old hippy art teacher, Ms. Leeds. How she had long hair, rounded nails, always had organic cereal on her desk, and how her classroom smelled like vanilla and potted plants.

"So does she still teach, or is she so old she's dead now?!", my children ask. "If she's not dead, will you ever see her again?"

Or my ex-boyfriend, a punk rocker and the coolest person you'll ever meet. "Does he still play in his band? Do you think he got more tattoos?", they wonder.

Even my first landlady on North Pine Street, when I was seventeen-years-old. "It would be crazy if she is still at the same house all this time later. You totally need to knock on her door the next time we visit!", they recommend.

Special people

While I am too busy to reach out to all of the special people from the past, I have tried. I sent Ms. Leeds a Christmas card a few years back, and received a reply! She always wondered what happened to me and never forgot me, nearly twenty years after I was her student.

My punk rock ex-boyfriend I follow each other on Instagram fourteen years later, and yes, he does still play in his band. The new tattoo part remains a mystery.

My landlady? I sent her a Christmas card last year, and never heard back. She was pretty old sixteen years ago, so this was not a huge surprise.


I have decided to take my children back to New York, to show them what my life was like there. At least of what-and who-still remains. I'd like to see it for myself, too. To have what may possibly one long, hard, last look. I think we all deserve that if it is something we wish to happen. Reconnecting to our past. Before we left our home in Georgia, knowing that with no family there I may never go back again in my lifetime, we made a few special stops. The hospitals where the kids were born. Our first apartment, our first house. How we painted it my favorite color, yellow. Our favorite family restaurant, and how we'd been going there since my oldest was a baby. The high school where I had my first teaching job.

Significant places

While I was not from Georgia, nor would I probably ever go back there again, nevertheless these were some of the most significant places of my life. It was there that I learned to be a wife, a mother, a teacher. A cancer patient. I wanted to see them all, one last time. To say goodbye, thank you. A lot of things. Living with this disease gives us the opportunity to make a lot of new, beautiful connections. If we don't have the chance to be elderly, to have decades of time left to see the people and places of our past, do we do it now, or stay focused on the present?

I try and do both; live firmly planted in the present, while, on occasion, still outstretching a hand to the past.

And actually, it is really nice to remember my life before cancer. Reconnecting brings back wonderful memories.

Do you reconnect with your past? If so, where? When? With whom? Please share!

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to share that on Friday, October 29, 2021, Danielle Thurston passed away. We know that Danielle’s voice and perspective continue to reach so many. She will be deeply missed.

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