Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cancer, Cancer Go Away. Come Again...um, Never!

When I was a little girl I never thought about money or the financial gyrations my parents went through to provide for me. I never thought about taxes, or insurance, or politics, or illness and disease and death.

Illness and disease and death.

Three little words, really. I know I can't ignore them or pretend that they don't effect everyone on the planet at some point in their human journey. After all, what is the saying? Nothing is sure in life except death and taxes? So why am I so bothered by them lately? Bothered to the point of wishing for the return of my childlike view of the world - a world where my mother held me when I cried, my dad worked to pay the bills, and my biggest worry was if my friend would be at home when I knocked on her door carrying my pink Barbie case under my arm.

Sleeping in blissful peace

I can't go back, but Lord knows I've tried in the last month to lock my vision on the shiny parts of life and ignore the rest.

Today I'm taking the blinders off. Here is the ugly and hurtful truth. People I know and love are going to get cancer, all shapes and forms of this dreaded disease. People I care about are going to die of cancer and die quickly in some cases. People I like and admire who have had cancer are going to relapse. I might even relapse. Ouch, that one stung but it's painfully true.

I visited the doctor today. She ordered a chest x-ray because I shared with her how I've been feeling lately. "It's nothing, I'm sure. Let's just be proactive," she said as she wrote the order.

"Yes. Let's do that," I replied as those three little words played like a scratched record in my head.

Illness, disease, death.

I'm vulnerable to this droning music because, lately, the point has been hammered home that the earth could suddenly move under my feet. Again. I'm well now but who says I'm going to stay that way? In the last few months I've been reminded over and over how fragile our bodies can be. It's left me shaken.

Since I have not asked anyone's permission to write about them I will honor my beloved friends anonymously.

Except for this one, as I now have permission. Mrs. Theresa Beauchamp lived in upstate New York. She raised a large family, giving everything she had to her children and their children. Her smile and dancing eyes lit up all the photos I've seen of her. She lifted, lugged, remodeled, and worked around her house well into old age because it made her happy. She gathered with her family at the lake and reveled in the noise of passels of grandchildren playing in the water. Late last year she was diagnosed with cancer and to her family's dismay was gone seven weeks later. I mourn her because I love her daughter, Terry, and through her daughter I see all of this glorious lady's accomplishments. She will be missed.

Terry and her mother

There is a man who loved kids so much he taught them English for many years. He loved to write. He loved to play basketball. He was the fiercest critic of my writing. I am better and more skilled because of it. One evening not so very long ago he passed out on the basketball court. He had a brain tumor. He stopped  going out and I missed the way he'd line through and scribble over my manuscripts. One Monday evening last year he showed up at a writers' group meeting. I was lucky enough to be there. Afterwards, several of us went out to eat. We talked and laughed until my sides hurt. My friend joked in his usual off color way. I was so happy to see him but I could tell he was fading. We talked on the phone a few times before he moved across country to have the support of his family. He died in December. I cried when I saw the picture of his headstone. I can't bring myself to erase his number from my phone.

Another friend is recovering from breast cancer. She seems to be as sassy and vibrant as ever but I can't wait to hug her and look in her eyes. I need to see for myself that she has come through to the other side. And yet another friend is in the hospital again, working her way back to remission and normal life.

And a few days ago, a dear friend in my home state of Georgia shared that she's been diagnosed. She's reaching out to me because she knows I will understand. I'm her big sister in cancer. If she were pledging my sorority I'd turn her around and face her toward the door with marching orders to never come back. Sadly, life is not a college campus and she doesn't have a choice in learning the secrets of the breast cancer club.

Since I have been in her shoes, I can't go on blissfully saying bad things only happen to other people. I can't say that someone else will be there to provide comfort. It's not okay if I look the other way until the crisis is over. If I put my fingers in my ears and sing la, la, la, one day I will have to take them out, acknowledge that life is scary and not at all fair. My parents knew it. Every generation before them knew it. It's my turn.

Illness, disease, and death.

Don't ignore.



Be strong.

And, there you go. It's all anyone can do.