Yesterday, a friend that I work with happened to be in our break room at the same time I was heating up my lunch. I've known her for years - and she's known both of my girls, "My Princesses" as she calls them, since they were infants. Earlier this year she was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer - through her initial doctor appointments and testing she remained positive and happy, but outwardly she also projected an inner peace that only served to reinforce her grace and dignity. Being in the medical field she knew what lay ahead of her, and she was determined to tackle it head on. She only returned to work one month ago.
As I sat down and waited for my food to finish in the microwave she took a deep breath and said very casually, "So I don't know if you've heard or not, but I'm going to have to go on at least short term disability but it looks like I may have to go on long term disability as well." I paused for a moment before speaking and automatically assumed that there had been some complication with her breast cancer follow-up that would require her to take some time off. Before I had the opportunity to open my mouth and try to say something that wouldn't seem trite or patronizing I felt like I was being hit by the full force of a right hook to my jaw. "I have liver cancer, Joy, and it's big enough that it's inoperable. My only option would have been for a resection and that's not an option because the cancer has spread too far, or a transplant and I'm not a candidate to be on the transplant list because it's too soon after my breast cancer."
What do you say to that? I'm sorry? I'm sorry is bullshit and empty. I'm beyond sorry, I'm pissed. I didn't have words. I couldn't find words. There aren't enough words to convey what I was thinking at that exact moment. So instead, I walked over to where she was eating, gave her a hug, and cried. She said, "I have to believe there is a plan in all of this, you know?"
She has an amazing support network that includes family, friends, and coworkers. Her attitude, at least outwardly, is positive and in looking at her I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe and amazement at how collected she seemed to be. She's determined, but at the same time, knowing her for as long as I have, there was also a hint of concession in her voice - as if she intuitively knows what her future is going to hold.
So all of this, in combination with the news the other day that a runner - a wife, a mother of three that was newly pregnant - was murdered, has had me thinking about my own mortality more than usual. Thankfully not to the point that my anxiety runs rampant and I find myself spiraling down into a panic that only Xanax can stop - but thinking about nonetheless. As I lay in bed the other morning debating as to whether or not I ran ultimately what got me out of bed was knowing I could postpone my run, but there was nothing to say that with the extra time and thus getting out of the house earlier to head to work that I wouldn't be flattened by a garbage truck. I know there are no guarantees but this kind of news just serves to reinforce that and the need to make sure that I hug my girls a little tighter, I let all who surround me know how very much they are appreciated and loved, and that I live my life so that my memory, my legacy, is how I want others to remember me.
I'll be pissed off at the world for a few days as I process through the news and my anger. Then, as I always have, I will pick myself up - dust myself off - and figure out how to make lemon meringue pie out of a whole crap ton of lemons.