My friend Sue is ill. Not just a little ill, like with a cold. Not even seriously ill, like with an early cancer diagnosis.
Sue is ill enough to have a team of friends taking turns to care for her so she can stay in her home as long as possible. Sue is shockingly open about her prognosis and is preparing herself and those around her for the inevitable, determined to take some control of what she can as long as she can. I have joined Sue's 'care team' and will be taking a shift this Saturday to be with her, to cook a meal, dole out medications, share a laugh, have a cry; whatever she needs on that particular day.
When I first started this blog I naively intended to write only good news stories. I assured others that my postings would not be depressing or morbid. I would share news of long-term survival and people who are responding well to treatment. I would write about kicking cancer in the ass. My motto would be (as stolen from Jackie Farr) FUCK CANCER! My profile says that “I want to create a blog that is about living in the moment and finding joy in the small things”.
But what do I do when one of the amazing friends I have met on this journey is not doing well? Do I ignore their struggle and my sadness and write something fluffy and positive? Isn’t it easier to just not deal with the fact that others die of the same disease that I have? Is it rational to feel a bit guilty that I’m doing well when others are not? Wouldn't writing about it be a downer and just remind others that none of us are invincible?
If I was Sue I’d be angry, wondering why I was in that situation while Chris was off visiting Europe and enjoying a cottage with friends. But I think I’d be even angrier if Chris didn’t appreciate her good fortune.
I’m not Sue, I’m Chris and my latest CT scans show that my cancer is responding to the treatments. But I am connected to Sue and what she is going through; a bond formed by late night emails when steroids made sleep difficult or times when I needed company but couldn't face seeing anyone in person. We emailed back and forth almost daily for a while, comparing treatments and sharing our common views on everything from American Idol, to topics for Sue's newspaper column, to making difficult treatment decisions.
When my dear friend Carol died in 2001 I vowed to live my life for both of us, to not take for granted the things that Carol could no longer do that I could. Back then it was just Carol; now the list has become incredibly long.
I recommit to life, in honor of Sue, Mary, Meridy, Mary Lou, Alice, Sylvie, Laurie, Jim and all of the others who are travelling this journey with me. Tomorrow I will put on my big-girl smile and face the world with hope and determination.
But tonight, I choose to be sad.