One of my best friends is someone I almost kept myself from knowing.
She seemed to have it all: success, intelligence, style, financial security. So I assumed she wouldn't be interested in me.
Actually, she DID have all that, but she also had an ex-husband who was very unstable, a son who seems to be wrestling with some of the inherited aspects of that instability, and, like everyone "family of origin" issues.
She always looked as if she'd just stepped out of a Talbot's ad. Tweed, cashmere, linen and pearls -- calm elegance. Turns out her first job after an ill-advised first marriage was as a flight attendant (Remember Southwest airlines' hotpants?) and the Talbot's look was just her accountant's 'uniform.'
But when my divorce attorney recommended her to be my CPA, we over came my self-doubts and misery and "clicked." We shared the love of words, writing, a twisted sense of humor and the ironies of life. She offered encouragement and a good example, I offered encouragement and acceptance (an antidote to judgment by self and others).
Well, she's had metastatic melanoma (Stage IV "terminal") since June 2, 2002. They predicted a 3 month life span at the time. She's been amazing and awe inspiring in the interim. Running the insurance company she and her husband own, traveling, helping her son become a self-sufficient young man, deepening her faith as she understands it, and being a loving wife to her dear husband.
She called me Friday. She's been in the hospital for two weeks. Eeeeek. Even though she calls me her preferred sister, and I love her the way I think I would if I HAD a sister, we are casual about updates. She'd gone to the hospital via ambulance and didn't have access to her phone or phone numbers... I'd e-mailed her, but wasn't really surprised not to get an answer.
I've been to see her twice since she called. It's not that the melanoma is worse or that new turmors have been found. Rather, side effects from pain medication have dealt her a blow. The MD's want to give her a transfusion, but after all her chemo and genetic trials she's got so many antibodies that suitable blood is going to be difficult to find. They are considering surgery to remedy the side effects.
Actually all those details are irrelevant. Researching them and writing about them are a way to manage my worries. And even those come and go. My friend and I have talked about mortality, our respective cancers, the meaning of love and life and friendship. As she said this afternoon, we're an odd team, but a good one.
I hope that she can beat this setback. I'm planning to stay with her in the hospital Tuesday (when they want to do the surgery) and maybe Wednesday night to give her husband and mother some respite.
The way for me to console myself is to give you, dear reader, some advice.
If there's someone important to you, let them know. Overcome your hesitance, shyness and normal "distance" to make the connection. We cannot keep each other alive, but we can love each other.
As she says: You are blessed. Be a blessing.
The surgery was moved up to Monday. It took twice as long as expected... AND-- they did NOT find more tumors. Whooppee! What they found was that radiation she'd had for previously zapped tumors had scarred/knotted/blocked her intestine. The surgeon (thank you, John N. Littrell, MD ) was able to construct a detour. Ok, so she's been in hospital 16 days, has 7 days of surgery recuperation and 7 more of PT, but 30 days with a decent quality of life afterwards... PRICELESS.