I met CatsM today. For those who haven’t read below, this is the chick who had a stage IV tumor of the parotid. Two months after finishing her last cycle of chemotherapy the punks have recurred in her lymphatic system. She said she’s actually proud of how strong her cancer is – it resisted even the goddamn chemo. And unfortunately this gal is worthy of a strong opponent.
It turns out I was wrong: when I wrote my last post she wasn’t within a six mile radius. It turns out that at the time she was only two blocks away. We’re living in the same neighborhood. I’m lucky. I had a tumor. Everyone around me has cancer.
But there we are, the two of us in this coffeshop, both of us members of the Club of Scarves intended to hide our beautiful exquisitely rendered scars and protect our forever sun sensitive necks. So where we at? I’ve had two surgeries so I’ve bested her one, but she had some chemo during her rt which made the whole experience pukable. Her body is a toxic soup of chemicals and nasty things that she’s trying to kill and in the heart of it she didn’t shit for two weeks and she puked up so much of the world that eventually she was puking up just water. Hands down she’s fighting the bigger one. Bless her heart. That’s actually a request to whomever is reading this.
She offered to take me out – I’m a guest in her city afterall. I told her forget it, I’m actually on a medical vacation.
Well I am too, she said.
Really? I asked.
I am so lucky, she said. So damn lucky. Before I had this, I was so unhappy. I was burnt out. I hated my job. I was fighting with my boss. I was fighting with my boyfriend. Since my diagnosis, it’s been the happiest time in my life. I’m so happy.
I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t know it to be true. My 53 year old Czech Chernobyl friend tomorrow boards a plane to Tahiti. Last fall she was at the base camp of anapurna. This morning she bought a bowl of soup for her lunch, walked outside and promptly gave it to someone asking for change. Whatever. She’s spreading her wings at a point in her life when most people are tucking them in.
And I whither before the clear eyed gaze of the head scarved women who walk so calmly, scared, and forthrightly into the clinic.
Each morning I bump space with an elderly Vietnamese man in the men’s waiting room. He doesn’t speak much English and he must be in his 70’s which puts him in his 30’s during the Vietnam war. That guy no doubt has a story to tell. The first couple days we sat across from one another and nodded. A few days later we started to smile. A few days after that we would look at each other and laugh. It turns out we share the same linear accelerator table. If I show up early I scoop him. If I show up late he takes my spot. A few days ago that’s just what happened. When he stepped out from the treatment area he pounded me on the shoulder and laughed long and hard from the gut. He and I have never spoken.
It’s true that you can get there. But who among us would willingly pay the price?