Thursday, June 23, 2011

Not another one

I’ve known her for years although, in the past four or so, I have seen her less and less. She moved back home to the small town where people know her and knew her parents and their parents before them. I was glad for her, she seemed lonely here and unsafe in the house she shared with her sister and son and she was always ill.

She called me two weeks ago, when I’d just got back from Spain and was sitting waiting for a friend at a restaurant. It was that dreaded, heart-sinking, scream-inducing phone call. The one where the person on the other side says: “I have cancer.” And you want to cancel the call and throw your phone into the pond next to you in which two goldfish swim, not noticing a thing, in the hope that, by throwing it there the call won’t have happened and it won’t be true.

Yesterday afternoon she popped in to visit with her son who used to be a little boy and is now a grown man. She looked tiny and fragile, despite being wrapped up in layers of clothing. Always prone to being a little morbid previously, she was surprisingly upbeat, if pale and wide-eyed.

At Real Work yesterday I had a discussion with a doctor who had been soothing another collegue whose mother has brain cancer (monstrous thing is everywhere). He said something I hadn’t thought of before: “We all die,” he said (I had thought of that, not the next bit), “and, in some ways, it’s a better option to be given a time frame. It gives you time to tie up loose ends, to say goodbye, to tell people you love them.”

A difficult concept to grasp. I have never been okay with the thought of death. Of anyone else dear to me’s death, that is, not mine. Mine, I’m fine with. Maybe that makes me intrinsically selfish?

I didn’t ask her what the prognosis is. She’s being given some treatment, and I hope it works but, mostly, I hope that in this whole process she doesn’t feel too sore or yukky and that she will be loved as she should be, to make it all as okay as it can possibly be.

These things remind one to hug the people you love closer, to be nicer, gentler, kinder. Time is limited, always.

This cancer thing is a bitch.

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