Cancer

When facing the fact that your best friend for 55 years has a life threatening illness, you simply collapse. You fight for air, for balance and you try to find the footing that will see you through the next months and hopefully years that lie ahead. Sleep disappears and eating vanishes as you struggle to discover the new normal a diagnosis like cancer brings.

Family

Friends at age 7 and then we marry brothers. Our lives weave a blanket of many colors and the fabric is strong and durable. We've fought, grown distant, but always we come together again.

Last night, as I sit holding her hand, I want to cry. Instead, I take a deep breath, reach over and hug her.

Advertisements
Advertisements

"Are you scared?" I ask.

"Yes," she answers.

We sit again in silence again. I notice the fragrance from the candles, the low lights, the peacefulness that belies the anxiety raging in my gut. Like my brother, I cannot imagine life without her

I say, "What about the help me I've fallen and can't get up button?"

She smacks me and grins. "No."

We laugh and sit some more.

While we wait for the lymph node biopsy to come back, I research. I find what I think is the best hospital, the best physicians in the area. I speak with my husband about driving her to and from treatments, think about how she can stay home alone through treatment because she wants to sleep in her own bed.

My brain naturally reaches out to the future. I need a plan and then a plan of action. I have to map the journey so I feel some control.

Advertisements

Unfortunately, that's not how everyone works.

My reaction is: we don't have a lot of time, this is a bad #Cancer, we need top quality treatment yesterday not tomorrow. I want to jump up and down and scream. I want to demand a faster biopsy. As much as I bluster, it is for her children to step up and take control. Not me. While I will help, I will do as they ask, not ask them to do as I say.

Last night, we sit with candles lit, not saying anything, just being. She pats me and I pat her. We talk about high school, laugh and I express amazement at what rough shape her high school year book is in. She cherishes this book, I think. Every now and then we discuss something serious. We let the moment be instead of forcing the moment to be something else.

She is tired and struggles to eat. We talk about protein, how to get more vegetables into her diet, I mentioned V8 and think she is going to throw up on the spot. She gives me a look that says, come on now. Still, it's a good idea now that her diet is mostly liquid.

Advertisements

The woman hates milk which poses a problem too.

"Thank God for protein powder," I say.

We laugh again then fiercely hug each other.

Caregiving

When diagnosed with Crohn's disease my doctor asks who my caregiver is. Stunned, and I mean that literally, I say, "I don't need a caregiver!"

He calmly looks at me and says, "Yes, you do."

It is unsettling to realize you need a caregiver and scarier as hell to think of chemotherapy. I can help her here. Chemo is horrible but survivable. "Think short term," I say and utter a silent prayer.

For me, having a caregiver implies you are not able to care for yourself. On the other hand, care giving can mean many things. Like help with housework, or cooking, or weeding the lawn area. She smiles when I mention no more yard work. She hates it with a passion.

Sometimes, care giving means just sitting and holding hands. For two people who have known each other for so long there is much to talk about and remember. I think: When the grieving process of the old life finishes, perhaps I will have more energy to expend on the new normal. I hope so, anyway.

On a personal level, I struggle between depression and anxiety. As impossible as it is, I desperately want to turn the clock back one week. A week ago we were heading out on vacation, she was going to get her acid reflux under control and summer was coming. Now there is a new normal and I don't know what that will entail.

I must relearn the lesson from when I was 5 and my father died; cherish life while you can, because it can change in an instant. I say I love you often. I hug my #Family and friends because I don't know how long I will have them. Imagine, a 55 year #friendship.

What a beautiful blessing.