Search This Blog

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tropic [and Topic] of Cancer

I have to write this delicately. This story is not mine to tell in detail.

So all I will say is that I know someone with cancer. And it feels so terrible to hold this information, to know it, to witness its darkness and stealth, its hunger, even from a distance. This is a wonderful person, a bright and sunny person. A kind heart. This is a lovely family.

But cancer doesn't care. It steals. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

I have not seen this good person lately. But I have seen the person's child occasionally, around dusk, and I want to say, It will be okay. You will be alright. But what you're going through must be terrifying. I don't know you that well, but well enough to see the change in you. And well enough to know how much your parents love you. I can see your heart breaking. I can see you losing grounding. I can see what you are thinking. The world you have always known is being pulled out from under you, like an old rug. But you will not break. You will survive. I am so deeply sorry for what you are enduring. This illness will change the course of your life. Yet you will somehow be left standing, and you will be okay.

Instead I just smile weakly and say, "Hi, hon," as I like to say to both boys and girls of all ages, as though nothing has changed, as I would say to any child whose parents are thriving and healthy. It's all part of what we do when cancer is taking hold of a family. We try to put a positive spin on it, to help everyone keep a stiff upper lip.

I don't know if the parent will be alright. I hope and pray the answer is yes. But seeing the child brings back the child in me, the girl whose mother had cancer. The mother who was gifted with rides to treatment, crocheted afghans--likely from women in the Saint Mary's Altar & Rosary Society. [I really don't know for sure. I was away at college, but that's my guess.]

But I didn't have to face the cancer when I woke up in the morning and went to bed at night, living at Rutgers in my cozy college dorm, writing for the daily newspaper, falling in love for the first time. Sleeping in the same bed that many other undergraduate women had slept in before me. Or I was in denial. My mother will not die. Mommy will be okay. She was 1.5 hours up the New Jersey Turnpike, and she would be okay.

To this family, I send faith and soft thoughts and iron-strong will to fight this war. I want so much for you to win.

Sometimes, all you can really do is show up, and that is everything.

Good night.

  1. Boot camp in the park.
  2. Lean, high-protein lunch.
  3. Long evening walk with Sug, by Hobbit Houses.


  1. This is so hard. We have a good friend going through it now, plus a couple of acquaintances in town. There is no fair or moral explanation for why anyone must go through it, but a young parent? That just rips the heart out. :(

  2. Hi Eileen...yes, it's so universal a hard....hope all is well. love alice