Wednesday, March 11, 2009


A friend shared with me tonight some worries he has about a family member's health. I didn't think much of it at the time--just a normal topic of conversation--but now as I lie sleepless in bed it comes back to me, and I realize how cancer has changed the way I relate to the types of thoughts and concerns he was having tonight. He was worried about his aunt, first and foremost, but that thought lead to worries about her husband, who has his own worrisome health history, and how terrible it would be for their family, for his cousins to be without parents. And these thoughts led for him to thoughts of his mother, and worries about her health (although as far as anyone knows she is perfectly healthy) and wondering how he'll be able to help care for her from across the continent, when the time comes.

And all that seemed so normal I sort of brushed over it (to the extent, even, that I am extrapolating most of his concerns from mere fragments of sentences), and there was plenty else to talk about anyway, besides. But I realize now that there was something else to my blithe nature. Something inside me bristled at the conversation.

For one thing, the health concern involved a "precancerous" polyp, and as far as I know, all polyps in the colon are precancerous and as long as we get our colonoscopies when we are supposed to and have them removed, colorectal cancer is highly preventable. And since I have a cancer that came out of no where that no one even has a clue what causes it and I therefore had no such opportunity of prevention, I get frustrated by the reminder of other cancers that are more common, more preventable, more treatable, and, above all else, that just get more money and more attention than my disease.

And it reminded me of Ray, who died of colon cancer because he didn't get his colonoscopy when he was supposed to even though he knew it ran in his family and waited instead until he had symptoms. And all at once that makes me angry at him and miss him and love him and with that I could just hug him again and talk to him about Obama and Wall Street's demise and hear his laugh and just one more cynical comment from his with that almost undetectable undertone of optimism. Because Ray was, surprisingly, the most bouyantly optimistic person I have known.

But the real reason I bristled inside, the real reason I didn't want to dwell on the subject of my friend's aunt's mortality, is more a matter of perspective. I cannot think about someone from a previous generation passing--whether in good health or poor--without instantaneously wondering if I will even be alive for their funeral. I joke with my mother about her having some favors to call in when the time comes, but the truth is that I am afraid I won't be able to deliver. That I won't be around to return the favor. I can't remember what it was like to see things from his perspective--the unconscious and complete assumption that he be around, and healthy even, when his parents start to get old and need help, and long after they are gone, too.

I can't remember what that feels like.

1 comment:

Meems said...

Hi Roser, missing your lovely self, sending love. -Meems