The World Just Changes A Little Bit

Burning match (cerilla ardiendo)

Image by John C. Shaw via Flickr

I just received news from my sister that her friend Allison passed away last night. I knew Allison but had only met her once or twice. She was a very warm and charming woman who was my sister’s neighbor. She leaves behind her husband and a daughter, the age of my nephew, Jon, 21. She died of breast cancer.

I have a friend that lives around the corner who is also dying of cancer. She too had breast cancer and then brain cancer. We don’t ask questions, they are a very private family. No matter what her condition is she tries to attend, her children’s basketball games or important events. She doesn’t care about being seen in a wheelchair or weighing barely 90 pounds or the fact that her mouth dragged down and over to the side, why should she? She is one of the best moms I have ever met. She will be with her three children as long as a single breath is left in her body.

Two years ago, when she was still able to walk, unassisted, my neighbor and I would each run to our windows to keep track of her. If we saw her walking alone, one of us would crush our feet into sneakers and pretend that we had walked too, and join her to keep her company. She wouldn’t ask for help, but we knew that we couldn’t let our friend walk unsteadily alone. She refused to use a cane; but she was happy for the company; we were happy to see her.

If we made “extra” food for our families, we would simply drop platters of freshly roasted chicken, baked ziti and meatballs at her door with a loaf of warm french bread or a tray of fudge brownies. When she could only drink liquids my new specialties became soup; peach soup in the summer, chicken soup in the fall. They never asked for meals but they always welcomed it. We would call before we brought a meal over and ask if it was a convenient time; sometimes we left it on the wooden bench near the door. We never saw our friend on these visits; we didn’t have to.

My best friend from high school, Paula, had breast cancer and finally now, after about 6 or more hospitalizations, a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, infections and reconstructive surgery, she is trying to heal. It has been a long road for her. Another friend, Margie, with thyroid cancer, said she doesn’t think about celebrating her five-year anniversary of being cancer free; her oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering said that “once you have cancer, you are never cancer free.” I don’t want to believe that but it is sobering.

I am sorry for my friends, I worry in advance for all the important women in my life. I am grateful for every healthy minute of our lives, and I understand how fragile and unpredictable life is. I am incredibly grateful. The world changes a bit, doesn’t it, when another person dies, when a soul leaves the body. It’s like a candle or a match, one after another, forcibly being blown out while it is still burning bright. It seems that their lives are extinguished way too early, too violently and too harshly. Snuffed, taken away, burnt, dead. “I knew she was going to die” my sister said sadly to me” but somehow it isn’t the same until it really happens.”

Dedicated to all cancer survivors and those we lost who live on in our hearts.

1 thought on “The World Just Changes A Little Bit

  1. Cancer can be a slow killer taking a piece of a person at a time; that makes the process seem even more cruel. Then there is remission and the hope that it’s been beat. But sometimes cancer can’t be beat, or as you said, remains a part of the person’s life for ever.
    I have a friend who is now a 5 year breast cancern survivor; breast cancer took her mother five years before her breast cancer crisis. She has come out the other side a stronger, more determined, and more postive. For her, the 5 years of being cancer free is a victory.
    The questions for me are the who and the why? Why some folks get cancer (a friend’s mother who never smoked died of lung cancer); why some overcome it, and others succumb.
    I find it hard to say that I had cancer because mine was skin cancer — something that seems less invasive, less pervasive, less dangerous. A mole I’d had since birth that we watched hadn’t changed in shape or colo(u)r, but there were changes to the texture my dermo. caught during my very first full body scan. She took a large “chunk” of it for biopsy, and the results came back as 1st stage melanoma. I had the surrounding skin and tissue removed (2nd biopsy said hadn’t melanoma hadn’t spread any further). I had a second melamona removed this spring. The 2nd biopsy came back that the margins were clean. But now, I had to have full body scans every 6 weeks. Still, my “bout” with cancer seems so trivial, so “unscary,” in the face of my friend’s breast cancer, or the throat cancer that killed one of my cousins.
    You are right: cancer takes folks before their time; their lives are cut short by an evil we can’t control, predict, or cure. You do want you can to help: food, friendship, neighborliness. Your sister expressed it so well:
    “I knew she was going to die” my sister said sadly to me” but somehow it isn’t the same until it really happens.”


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