This weekend, I saw my dear friend who has cancer.
SIDEBAR: I would say, “had,” but I am too superstitious. There is still radiation, to eradicate any stray cells.
I had arranged to drive up to her house in late April, but I got sick. And no one who is a friend goes, when sick, to see someone undergoing chemo. And I knew that to battle my friend’s cancer, the doctors were taking out the big “chemo” guns. The remedy would eradicate the cancer, but she had to survive the remedy. I worried every day about that. (The perils of having a doctor in the family.)
This weekend, the stars aligned. She finished chemo; I am healthy; and she has a break before radiation therapy to make sure the “big guns” got it all.
I drove to the suburbs of Boston. I was early, so I parked a street away and let my thoughts run wild — through the fears of what chemo had done to her body; through the fervent belief that my friend would be there, just as she always was, although maybe a little paler, a little weaker, and little less hair; through everything in between.
I waited 30 minutes, and still I was early. I couldn’t wait anymore. I pulled up to the house. Her husband and I hugged.
“She’s upstairs resting. I’ll get her.”
“NOOOoooooooooooooooooooo!!!!! Let her rest!!”
Very soon afterward, my friend comes down the stairs. Thinner. With a head scarf. But, same smile. Same beautiful eyes. My friend. An indomnitable spirit and with a certain grace that even poison cannot kill.
Letty Pogrebin’s article about her friend’s fight with cancer prepared me for the difference in my friend’s appearance. I knew to focus on the windows to my friend’s essence — her smile and her eyes.
And then she took off her scarf and showed me that her hair was growing back. I ran my hands over the short growth. It was good to feel softness. The regrowth process started gently. I was glad to think that recovery might be as gentle and kind from here on out.
And she is beautiful without hair. And she was relaxed and happy to laugh and recount some of the crazy, Seinfeld-like, stories of various people’s reactions. And eager to listen about the crazy stuff in my life and in Soeur J’s life. Soeur J lives not too far and rearranged her schedule to match mine (thank you).
We had a fun, funny visit. But it was too soon time to go.
I told my friend not to wait for me to pull away because I had to input GPS coordinates back to Boston.
In truth, I needed to let the tears stream down.
Tears? Of gratitude that my friend survived chemo. Of gratitude for her and Soeur J’s friendship. Of gratitude that I, a healthy person, and my friend could look each other in the eyes and be grateful for the moment, the years of friendship, and an abiding love.
Radiation starts on Wednesday. Keep my friend in your thoughts and prayers.