My life changed a year ago, with the news that one of my best friends has cancer.
With just two words — delivered over the phone in one of our routine evening chats — I began to take a different view of the world.
The words? ‘It’s cancer’.
In the typical style of girlfriends, my friend, who I will call ‘M’ — a woman with a heart of gold, the workaholic tendencies of a true feminist and eclectic tastes of one of life’s true creative types — had kept us abreast of all the symptoms of illness, from a swollen stomach to pain that seemed to never go away.
We, her friends, were also kept in the loop regarding the battery of tests performed to get to the bottom of her ailment. Through it all, I — we, I think — never for a moment considered cancer. But I suppose no-one ever does; no-one ever wants to.
And then the words.
Up to that point, cancer — outside of the stories I had heard or read — had really meant little to me. I know that now.
Yes, I felt sympathy for those who I understood to live with the disease and for the families of those who had died because of it.
Yes, I was moved to participate in cancer runs.
Yes, I had worn the pink ribbon over the years.
But it had never saturated my consciousness.
After the words, I no longer sit in a safe zone, isolated from cancer’s brutality, the sheer power of the blows it deals — and not only to the body of the people waging war against the physical toll it can take, but also to your dreams, to your ideas about who you are and what you are capable of achieving.
I get it now; cancer is a cancer.
After months of the experience, I find myself at a crossroads.
Yes, my friend is alive.
Yes, I am extremely grateful for this.
I am also compelled to write for write I must — or burst at the seams from equal parts anger and extreme sadness.