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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Questions and concerns

I was going to title my last post "One at a time". To put it mildly, it was a bad day. And a tough week. One in which I have to think hard about what I'm doing here, now, today...what am I doing with my life?

I am living with cancer. I don't mean that I'm living with it in my body. As far as I know (as far as anyone who has ever had cancer can know) my body is free of cancer. But I live with it. In fact I've practically made it my best friend. I spend more time with it than I do anyone or anything I know.
I realize that sounds scary. Maybe even a little crazy.
The realization of it certainly has stopped me in my tracks.
But, it's true. Breast cancer and I are office mates. I think about it all day long, and often it comes home with me in small ways and in big ways. This week, though, it seemed to take over the world.

In the end, I decided not to call the previous post "One at a time" because I really did want it to be for and about Michelle.

But today is different. Today I am left with questions.

In addition to Michelle dying, another young woman named Lisa died. I did not know her well either, although I met her in person at a conference this year and knew her online through the YSC's message boards. Those message boards are on fire, friends! If you ever feel consumed with worry or concern over house payments, job losses, or anything, just take a moment and slip into those message boards for perspective. They are filled with the pulsing current of women newly diagnosed and frightened, women seeking answers, women looking to vent, or women in search of the friendship and support that they can't get elsewhere. I moderate one of the message boards, the "Newbie" board, so I am constantly reminded of what it is like to be newly diagnosed with breast cancer. On there you will find everything from the crazy to the profound. It is truly where the rubber of life hits the road of reality.

Lisa was a very prominent, wonderful presence on the message boards. She reached out, she gave of herself, she asked for friendship and got it, she was fully involved. Her death has left a hole in the lives of many women on those boards. The pages of tributes to her go on and on. And most of these people only knew her through her posts.

In contrast, I know another woman, an older lady. She was sweet, kind, shy, soft spoken and unassuming. She has been suffering with metastatic breast cancer and its treatments for some time now. The last few days she was failing rapidly, but still holding on. Yesterday she died. The visitors at her bedside were few. She had no partner, no husband, no children. I was distressed at the image of her last breath being taken alone. Happily, I believe she had company at the end.

I asked why there was no one with her. I asked if she had any friends. I was told, "No. She has co-workers."

I don't need to point out the utter disparity between these two situations.
I can't even say for certain that one is better than the other. The result is the same: someone unique, irreplaceable, and once alive is gone too soon, as a result of this terrible disease.
But I know which image I am more comfortable with. I know what makes me happy.

But as a friend said, it's really all about choices, isn't it?

So I'm mulling over mine. And I'm keeping a close, unwavering eye on my office mate.

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