In an Italian restaurant trying to tank up before I go to bed. The wine tastes sweet, but flat; salt taste is retreating from my palate; water tastes metallic.

An opportunity for another gratuitous post.

I just visited a board for folks with salivary gland tumors. It’s not a community that I necessarily want to be a part of (who does?), but I’ve been able to glean some useful experiential information from the folks over the last few months.

A while ago I stumbled across some posts from a gal, CatsM, who had a stage 4 malignancy of the parotid. We’d been diagnosed at about the same time except that i’m stage 0. We share the same surgeon. And I was taken by her tone: flip, irreverent, humble, and smart. I picture Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. She was set to lick this thing and her course of treatment was full tilt: radical disection and removal of the gland and probable severing of the facial nerve, chemo, radiation in the basement of Zion. Come June she was all done with and things looked good. A few days ago she was readmitted with a high fever. An FNA revealed that the cancer has probably spread to her lymph nodes.

Over the last eight months I’ve probably spent 45 minutes thinking about this girl. Which is pretty disproportionate given that I don’t even know her, and whatever I know of her comes from a handful of sentences she’s posted to a message board. She’s in her 30’s. She’s engaged to be married to a pretty great guy. She rockclimbs, plays tennis, kayaks. Her parents believe in god. She probably doesn’t. But she probably believes in something. Right now she probably rests within a six mile radius of where I now sit.

How is it that people – not even people, but their voices – not even their voices, but our sense of their voices – become lodged in consciousness? And how is it that at this moment I care more for the wellbeing of this stranger than all the other strangers I pass in the street?

I’d like to believe that it has something to do with her, something that is unique to her – call it voice. But what to say, my empathetic response is probably founded in a sense that in one way or another, sooner or later, she and I share the same fate. And that she, in the most courageous way possible, is sustaining the blows before me. And if for that reason alone, out here in the ether, I’m obligated to watch her back.

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