Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

Yom shlishi, 10 Tamuz 5771.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my spinning buddies and I started swapping information about our visits to the doctor.  She was having stomach trouble.  I was having headaches.

We had a few tests.  She had PT scans.  I had CT scans.  We joked when we met on our bikes that we had to be sure she had no pets running around in her stomach, and that I had no cats running around in my head.

Every morning we have a chat over a virtual cup of coffee.   (Yes, I know we just live down the street from each other.  But we never got into the habit of meeting for a cup of coffee -- and starting because of our health concerns would have seemed like artificial sweetener.)

This morning we sent each other off to get results from our respective physicians.  We "tough biker broads," as we've started calling ourselves, planned to reconnoiter later to share good news.

Our husbands have been waiting nervously on the sidelines.

I have some sort of "jumpy vein" thing which is not a big deal, apparently.  We'll have to figure out what the cause is.  Do I need to take some sort of muscle relaxant to finally get a good night's sleep again, after two months without?  Or should I buy an expensive, specially-contoured pillow?  Do I need dental work?  Who knows.  All I know is that my husband can stop worrying about aneurysms and other scarier stuff.  I was feeling pretty cheerful, until I got home to read my friend's husband's blog, where he has been posting to their many anxious friends about her status.

My friend has inoperable stomach cancer.

Who took all the air out of the world all of a sudden?

First come the questions.  Some are existential.  Some are silly.  Some are practical.  Why do really mean people hang around the planet sucking Tums to ease their justifiably cranky tummies, and nice, sweet people filled with light and goodness struggle for their very lives?  Do I have the right for my morning shmoozes with my friend, now that I'm not in the club anymore?  What of substance can we do?

The first question is unanswerable until the Moshiach comes.  The second is just the yetzer hara, trying to make it all about me.  I'll have to cope with my own survivor guilt, as I have had to many times as friends I love had struggled.  The third is answered by our tradition, by common sense, and by the family themselves.

Our tradition teaches us that G-d does listen.  We will pray for her complete recovery, for the new advances in cancer research to be in place in time for her, for her family's strength.

We will listen when they choose to talk, not treating them like lepers, but not driving them crazy with our need for solace.  We will use the avenues that they have offered for coordinating assistance that they may need as we fight this fight together.

I will keep "dinging" my friend once in a while in the morning to talk about LIFE.  Because no matter how afraid cancer makes all of us, my friend is very much in life, and living, and loving.  When I see her, we'll talk about the kids and make jokes about exercise and discuss the myriad other things we both care about.

A good friend struggling with this disease once said to her friends:  "Don't give me the 'sad, droopy eyes look.'  I don't need you to bury me yet.  Let's share our lives together!"

Please daven for a refua shelaima for Tzuriya Kochevet bat Sara.  May we share good news!
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