I knew this day was coming, I think we all do, but out of anyone I especially knew. I knew because I work in cancer control: I knew because I receive legions of daily e-mails about programs, statisics, support groups and clinical trials. Cancer is everywhere in my everyday life. I meet survivors and read studies and it's cancer, cancer, cancer all the time. I knew and I know and I have always known that one day someone I love would call me and tell me they have cancer.
My friend Renee called me two weeks ago on a Friday night and left a message saying "Lets talk" and I felt something twitch inside my heart because I knew instantly that day had come.
As I sat there dialing I feverishly wished that she was calling to tell me something else like "I'm getting re-married" or "My house burned down", but I knew it wouldn't be those things.
I just knew.
So I took a deep breath and steeled myself for the wave.
Only 37 years old.
A single Mom to a teenage daughter who lost her father just three years ago.
So many times the injustice of life is staggering. She is the healthiest person I know. Two weeks ago she ran a 1/2 marathon. When she does triathlons she sometimes places in her age group. That's how healthy she is. Health is literally her hobby.
Like so many things, it's just not fair.
I shouldn't say that though because I of all people should know that no one deserves cancer.
If we had talked about this in person she would've seen it all in my face: the worry, the fear, the abject hysteria. She would've known that as we calmly talked about staging and treatment options I was doubled over on the couch clutching my stomach for fear of letting my sobs escape.
I'm a highly emotional person. I've cried over peaches before.
I know though that when someone tells you bad news, it's not your time to fall apart. You save that for those delicious peaches. When someone tells you something scary you need to listen without losing your sh*t. You need to give them the opportunity to say what they need to say because even if you are a graduated-with-honors conversationalist like me you can't make it better with your words.
If you are Renee and me you will spend the night discussing the merits of Alias-style Sydney Bristow wigs and how not being able to exercise will free up so much time to work on your multiple hilarious YouTube viral video ideas. You'll mull the possibilities of rocking a fedora. You'll laugh and laugh as you discuss a probable new blog series called "Renee kicks cancer in the teeth".
You'll giggle till your breathless because otherwise you'll drown in an ocean of fear.
When you've successfully discussed all the possible positives that could come out of this you take a moment to tell Renee that you love her. You will say that you know it's going to be a hellishly hard road but that you are going to hold her hand till she gets to the other side. You will vow that even though you don't know anything about lymphoma that you are going to be an expert by the end of the week. You will tell her if you don't think her doctors are on their game that they better watch out because you have absolutely no problem raising hell to get your loved ones what they need. You will wish that you could do more because you already know that it won't be enough. And then you'll say goodbye because your phones are dying and the night is late.
You will take a moment to get your husband up to speed and maybe a few more to cry in his arms.
You will go to sleep exhausted of both tears and laughter. And when you wake up the next day you will write this post because you love her dearly and even though you don't really know anything, you'll do your very best to be there every step of the way.