Friday, July 22, 2011

cancer sucks (m)

Several years ago, when Sam was in high school, he came home with a proposal for our family: "Let's go on vacation with a couple of families from school.  It'll be fun!"

Fun.  Stuffing myself into my Land's End plus-size swimsuit and sitting on a beach with skinny mothers who work out for a living.  Not my idea of fun.

We ended up going.  I don't remember how that happened.  One minute I was adamant about not going, the next minute I was told we're all set.

Harrison conveniently got strep throat and ran a fever of 103 degrees.  He and I did not leave with the others which was fine with me.  One less day of humiliation.

A day later, we arrived.  The other families are gathered at the poolside bar.  I don't even know the other families so I don't know whom to look for.

All of a sudden I hear "Okaaaay.  Now I get it!"  I look up and see a woman sitting at the bar in a Lily Pulitzer sundress, tanned, white teeth, fresh manicure and pedicure.  It's one of the mothers in our group.  She was normal sized, but she later told me she fought her weight everyday.

She looks at me and says:  "You know.  I've been staring at Sam and at your husband.  They look nothing alike.  One's tan and has brown eyes and the other is sunburned and blonde with blue eyes.  Sam looks like you.  Now I get it."

She was fun.  Upbeat.  Hilarious.  I laughed all week even though I never took my cover-up off.  I have a vivid memory of her sitting on a golf cart, dressed for dinner, arms over her head.  I distinctly remember thinking to myself this woman is on top of the world.

We became friends over the next year.  We became better friends the year after that when our boys were seniors, co-captains of the baseball team, and I retired from a full-time job.  She helped me settle into my role as full-time mother.  She was my mentor in that regard.

We hosted team dinners together.  Once we polled the group of parents to see what each planned to bring to the cook-out and one family responded "panzanella." We had a good laugh over that as we both had to Google "panzanella" (like bruschetta).

Two years ago, my friend had the hiccups.  They didn't go away after a month.  It was a large tumor.  The biopsy revealed cancer.  The cancer had spread to other sites.

All of us were shocked.  Here's someone who never smoked, and ate and drank in moderation.  Exercised daily.  Laughed regularly and she gets hit with an aggressive form of cancer.  Incomprehensible.

For the past two years, she's been fighting this like crazy. 

She is losing the battle.

Yesterday, I accompanied her to her chemotherapy session.  She's bald as an eagle and her once-thin stomach is distended from all the fluids.  I had to choke back tears when I saw her.  She's much worse than when I last saw her.

I bought her every trashy magazine and fashion magazine.  I had stories and jokes planned to keep her laughing throughout the 2-hour session. 

That didn't happen.  Instead, she wanted to talk about life. This life.  The afterlife.  It was an intense conversation and her blue eyes never teared up.  I went through a box of Kleenex.

I told her I feel my mother's presence every day and her kids will feel hers.  I am convinced the dead are with us in spirit.  I know because I feel it.  I don't have to see it.

About halfway through the session, a woman comes with a food cart.  Sandwiches, Doritos, chips, soft drinks.

We looked at the cart and burst out laughing.

How ironic that at the time in your life when you don't have to worry about your weight, you have no appetite.

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