The Big C word

3 Feb

It’s no secret, I hit the big five oh in 2011.  I’m officially an antique now.  What I hadn’t anticipated along the way was some other things.

First, there were my own health problems cropping up.  While not life threatening directly, they have delivered pain by the buckets sometimes.  Other times, like the hypertension, they are silent, and the medication should (hopefully soon!) have it under control.

Then, there were friends.  Today, I found out that a very dear friend, one who I always felt I could pick up the phone and call to share my woes, worries, hopes, and projects with…has the Big C.  Breast Cancer.

I’m devastated.

I cry for her, for the trials she faces as she endures the chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.  I cry for the energy and attention that it will demand from her and those who live with her as she works to heal and recover.  I’m grieving for her, even though I know it won’t help her one iota on this very rocky journey.

I know she’s a positive person, I know she’ll face this battle as she has faced each and every battle in her life, with quiet fortitude, a smile, and complete modesty.  She doesn’t think she’s tough, but to me, she’s a hero, and always has been.  She might be smaller and younger, but I have always looked up to her.  In a lot of ways, she has characteristics that I wish I did.  I also know she’d probably deny that, and claim that I had characteristics that she wished SHE did.  She’s like that.  She finds the best in almost everyone.  You have to really WORK to get animosity out of her directed towards you, she’s ever so much nicer than I am.

I adore her.

The funny thing is…we have never met in person.  She lives far away from anywhere I have ever lived, although I have visited not too far from the place she calls home.  We met a very long time ago in a chat room, and became friends from there.  Even without that face-to-face meeting, she’s still in my “Top Ten” people of the world.  We’ve had many cups of coffee together, we’ve cried over our kids together, and we’ve laughed over them too.

We’ve faced some tough things as we have talked over the years.  Grief, divorce, alcoholism, physical pain, attempted suicide, assault, betrayal, financial set backs, vehicular disasters, computer melt downs, strokes, hospitals, schools, dreams, and nightmares have all been the subject of “what is happening with me right now.”  Sometimes it was one of us, sometimes it was someone in our families, and sometimes it was someone close to us.

We’ve watched each other grow and become someone entirely new from the shy, small town women we once were.  It took years for our transition, but we are both just beginning to become what we could have been all along.

Cancer isn’t fair, did you notice that?

At the same time, it’s made me feel incredibly small and petty.  I think about the days I’ve sat and literally cried, thinking I cannot do this for another day, and I realize…I had a very small burden to carry.  It’s just pain, it’s not who I am, really.  It’s not even fatal, it just hurts.  So what if I can’t do much today…or tomorrow.  I have the day after that.

With cancer, you suddenly are faced with your own mortality.  Even worse, perhaps, is facing the mortality and frail nature of our loved ones.  Having lost someone important to me, in my case, a young son, I already know something.

It’s harder to be left behind.  It’s hard to pick up the pieces and keep on trudging down that path, suddenly with an empty spot alongside of you.  You want to quit.  You want to just sit down and cry until it’s done, until you too can go and quit trying to do this.  Living isn’t easy.  You also feel guilty because you are living.  After all, what did  you do to deserve this?

I feel guilty because I’m not the one facing the Big C.  It’s not fair that someone who is so wonderful should have to.  I’m not wonderful, I’m a continually struggling person who seeks wisdom and grace, and always falls short of the mark I have in sight.  I haven’t always been the best person I could have been.

Sometimes, our friends are like a flashlight.  They might not always be turned on and lighting up the world, but when you need them, they are there.

All I can say is that I hope my tears make it easier for her to slide through treatment and come out on the other side, as strong and delightful as she was when she started this journey.  I wish I lived close enough to bring her casseroles when she didn’t feel well enough to cook, and to hold her hand when she needed it.  I don’t, but my thoughts will still be with her.  The telephone and the computer will stay as our link, and I’ll pray for her in my own way.

Please get well soon, my friend.  The world needs your light too much right now.

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