Cancer Visits My World
I found out today that a former friend and lover has Thyroid cancer. She is 33. Her name is not important. Her fate, however, is very important to me. As flip as I can be here on Facebook and on other venues about matters of sexuality, and the opposite sex, I have not lived cavalierly in the world of love. There have not been many significant others. Two ex-wives, maybe a handful, if that, of committed relationships. And very little sexual promiscuity. So this young lady remains on my short list of loves I have shared in my 52 years.
She is the last relationship I have had, dating back to the early to mid-2000s. She was much younger than I; Asian, and a college graduate. Our two and a half years together staved off my upcoming depression and tail spin that began when I was laid off at the newspaper in 2009, the same newspaper where we had met.
We had cultural differences that rivaled the age difference, but we bridged them quite well. She was smart, tough and funny. She was a full generation younger than I, almost 19 years. I took some good natured ribbing from the more troglodytic male cohorts of mine. I accepted it with good humor. They could see, beyond their barbs, that we were good for each other. Our weakness balanced nicely with our strengths. We were much more complimentary with each other than one would guess, given our differences.
She made me feel younger than my age, and a million years old at the same time. She was a breath of fresh air for this tired old cynic. She exuded an alluring combination of innocence and shrewdness. She could be quite girlish, and yet all woman, often in the same hour. She grabbed life by the balls, always with her foot on the gas. She didn't drag her feet with constant reflection and speculation. She got things done. She was a doer, not a talker.
The only reason I am using past tense terms here is because we lost contact shortly after we agreed mutually that our love had run its course. She moved on to a more permanent arrangement. I think her time with me prepared her for the next step. The next man. At least I hope so. As legacies go, I do not have an abundance of them. My hope is that she is one of them.
She has married and has been very happy. Then this medical bombshell landed on her front porch with all the subtlety of a train wreck. She is scared. Cancer at the age of 33 is simply not supposed to happen. Especially to people with her joi de vivre, her spirit, her good soul. But it does.
It is one of the central ironies about growing old, that we experience death on an almost regular basis with each passing year. If we add up the weddings we go to in our first 40 years, with the number of funerals we are destined to go to in the next 40, which number do you think will be higher?
I have read many, many cancer stories on these pages. My sister died at age 48 of bladder cancer. My best friend’s wife passed recently at 64 of lung cancer. He himself has survived colon cancer.
Cancer has touched virtually everyone in some heinous way or other. It has become inevitable, ubiquitous, and as permanent as death itself. Or at least that’s how it feels.
She informed me via email today of this news. I was shell-shocked. And deeply saddened. The limitations of the written word, and I know them well, made my response to her difficult. I simply told her, boldly, that she COULD beat it. That she SHOULD beat it. That she WILL beat it.
I hate being in the cheerleader role. It makes me feel impotent, feckless, and even inconsequential.
The odds are very good that someone now reading this, or this writer, are currently harboring cancer cells that may kill us. Sure, there are forms of cancer that we can control whether or not we get it. Some cancer is behaviorally influenced. But cancer often strikes randomly, lethally, cruelly.
Fuck you, cancer.
Leave the women on my short list alone.
Isn’t it bad enough they had to be with me?