Friday, September 14, 2012

It's how you go that matters.

Yesterday I spent about four hours in a chemotherapy lab with one of my dearest friends.  She was being infused with her second of four maintenance injections for stage four Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

My friend *Sarah is a tough cookie.  To look at her one would never guess she has cancer.  She certainly doesn't act sick.  She has a zest for life which is absolutely contagious.  My friend reminds me of a gal from the mid-west.  A tough talking, no-nonsense, smoking, say-it-like-it-is, in-your-face, sort of gal.  She'll laugh when something is ridiculous and tell you flat out when you're being stupid.  She has a soft side too.  She cries when her teenage son gives her a long overdue hug and adores her four miniature, teacup poodles.  Go figure?

Sitting beside her while the Benadryl drip took hold and the toxins were simultaneously infused into her veins, I couldn't help but wonder about this miracle we call life.  I take advantage of my body every day; pop any number of assorted sleeping, pain, or antidepressant pills into my system.  It's a wonder my ole' bones don't rise up against me and say, "Enough already!"  I have this ridiculous notion of longevity on my mother's side of the family.  I'm immortal.  Not so.  What a silly thought.  And so, what if I should live to be into my 90's?  Should I treat my body this way?  Decidedly not.

As Sarah, God bless her, snored like a freight train, I looked around the room at the other patients hooked up to their particular poisons.  Some wore wigs, some head scarves, some were curled up in fetal positions clinging on to the hands of the friends or family members who brought them.  Others were being told their counts were too low and they'd have to come back next week - obviously very bad news.  Still others were being sent on to the hospital for blood transfusions.  Death and sickness surrounded me.  It wasn't an unfamiliar site due to my Hospice days but it had been a long time.  I hadn't braced for it.  My heart wasn't ready for it.  I had time to soak it in before Sarah woke up - three hours to contemplate it.  I realize that no one gets a free pass; however, it's how we handle our passing that matters the most.

As Sarah reclined back, belly exposed, her snoring becoming increasingly louder with every intake of breath, and with one leg dangling off the side of the chair, I was tempted to record her on my telephone in all her drooling glory.  I maliciously considered forwarding the video on to her sisters and kids - after all, that's what friends do, right?  Would she be angry?  Sarah?  Of course not.  She would howl with laughter and say, "Oh my God, Bri!  You're such a bitch but I guess that's why I love you so much!"

When Sarah goes down, she'll go down fighting.  And you know something, I'll be there holding her hand laughing and kicking right beside her.

*Name has been changed for privacy purposes.