Cancer · comfort · Finding joy

Friday

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Today threw me off balance. All I could think about this afternoon was how I needed to go home and write about it. Now that I’m here facing the blank page, I don’t know what to say.
I saw a friend of mine today. We aren’t really close. We don’t lie around in pj’s talking about our crazy dreams. We don’t have a storied history together. We haven’t shared a crisis or witnessed any miracles. What we have is a tenderness. What we share, is a hope.
We are nothing alike. I am a 50-something lesbian who loves hiking and art and making real connections. She is a 60 year old Chinese woman with two bright, adult children, is a gifted seamstress and has cancer.
I haven’t seen her since before Thanksgiving. I have written and stayed in touch, but we haven’t shared space for weeks. She is waging this battle largely on her own. Today I saw the toll the cancer and chemo have taken. Our bodies were not intended to house these powerful chemicals. Rosy cheeks become a dingy grey. The confident gait becomes a shuffle. Hair falls out, pounds drop off and the eyelids look like they might softly fall shut under the heaviness at any moment.
I didn’t know what to say.
I had brought a card for her today not knowing I would see her. When she opened it and saw sweet Yoda, her face broke out in a huge grin. Year of the Dog. I made cards for most folks that celebrate Lunar New Year. It helped take the edge off of an awkward moment and then we talked.
For as well as she responded to the first round of chemo was as hard as round two had been. She had to quit after the tenth of twelve weekly sessions. It caused numbness and pain and the chemicals exploit the fact that the body’s immune system is weakened. It attacks the most fragile pieces.
Goddamn chemo.
Goddamn cancer.
Considering all she has been through, she looked great to me. Her eyes had a familar softness and we talked about healing and recovery. I made her promise not to read too much about 45. What we give attention to, grows. No one needs the kind of negativity he brings. We talked about hope and resilience. Not just in her life, but in the world.
I shared my theory of the Universe. How I see life like a big sphere that I think we’ve fallen to the bottom of and how we are slowly making the turn back up. I believe that. I really do. We will remember what is important and we will drown out those voices who say otherwise. We share a faith about people. And in the power of prayer and connecting.
I gave her a gentle hug as I left. She may have come away thinking I tried too hard or said all the wrong things. But she knows I am in her corner. She knows I love her and that I care.
And I didn’t make the mistake of saying
“it’s the journey that counts”.
It’s the connecting that counts.
It’s the knowing we aren’t alone.
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