Please pardon my French, but I couldn’t think of another way to convey what I’m feeling.
Let me backtrack. When J and I lived in New Jersey back in the late 80s through the mid-90s, we made a lot of friends. But there was one couple in particular with whom we really connected. You know–or I hope you know–how great it is when you find a couple that you both click with. It’s akin to letting out a big sigh, ahhhhhhh, when you sink into the comfiest of chairs after a long day on your feet. These kinds of friends are hard to come by, so, like anything in life you value, you try to take them with you when you move–if not in the flesh, then in spirit. Since we moved out of Jersey in 1994, D and S have remained with us in spirit always and in flesh occasionally. Although there were a few years when we didn’t see each other often, on the whole we have remained constants in each others’ lives, bearing witness to the good times and the bad. Our first child, a son, was born two months before theirs, a daughter, which meant D and I were two beached whales hanging out at the pool on those lazy summer days of 1991. Ha! (Only we can joke about that! Husbands, take note!) Ah, memories! We didn’t know what to expect (although the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting had recently been published–thank goodness!), but we had each other and that was more than enough.
Fastforward to the fall of 2014. Our oldest children are 23 and living on opposite ends of the earth. We’ve somehow managed to get together enough during the intervening years that we all feel connected, like family, and in some ways more than family. (Heck, we ALL agree on politics, and that’s something!). And then BOOM. The phone rings and it’s my friend D telling me she has pancreatic cancer. Her life is turned upside down, and I am at a loss at what to say or how to help her. But I do my best, and maybe it’s enough and maybe it isn’t, but when D reaches the end of chemo, J and I travel up to see our friends and celebrate the end of chemo with them and we toast to life.
Funny how life is. Less than two weeks after that toast with D and her husband, my husband J was diagnosed with small intestinal cancer. Could I have survived without my friend D at my side? I don’t know. It’s possible. But it would’ve been hard. Although many friends and family guided us through that foggy time, D and S actually knew what it was like when the world as you know it is turned upside down, so they knew how to support us like no one else. Their very presence in our lives reminded us that there is life after cancer. Here was D, all beauty and smiles, looking better than ever, having beaten a cancer that is so powerful it even took Patrick Swayze from us. D was my rock. She was J’s rock as well. She and my husband supported each other, sometimes in a very serious way, but more often in a lighthearted manner when they taunted us about their private “club” meetings. S and I decided to form our own “club” and when we our families get together, he and I have our own meetings, usually involving a good long walk around the neighborhood and maybe a quick stop at Starbucks. We started out joking about our club meetings, but truth be told, they really were like I imagine a support group would be. People, sharing stories, hopes, fears and dreams.
So yesterday D texted us.
Sh*t. The oncologist thinks her cancer has returned. There are little nodules that have grown. There are markers in her blood that have changed. It’ll be a week before we know if it’s a recurrence, but what we do know for sure is that the spectre of cancer never goes away. All we can do is keep on living, being real, and soaking in every little bit of life and joy when we can, for as long as we can.
My heart is breaking.