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Life Through The Eyes of a Cancer Patient
About 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer; the doctors and specialists told me that it wasn’t hereditary, and I was just unlucky. I started to panic but my doctor, Sherry Clements told me to calm down. She said she’d fix everything. She promised me I’d be okay. I looked at her. I stared right into her eyes, and her expression didn’t change. She looked at me, and put a hand to my shoulder, and said “We’ll fix this, Nadine. I won’t give up on you.” All I could do was nod my head and accept her offer.
I went through years of treatment; chemotherapy was one of the hardest of all. I always had a huge amount of hair, and as the treatment went on, it started to fall, strand by strand, until there was nothing left except peach fuzz. I started to cry. When I visited Dr. Sherry Clements later that week, her first look at me showed her sudden shock, but she regained her straight face quickly – yet not fast enough. I started to cry again. I sat in front of her in the office, and I bawled my eyes out for over an hour. She came and sat next to me, put her arms around my shoulders, and said “We’ll fix this, Nadine. I won’t give up on you.” And she offered me a tissue. All I could do was take the tissue, nod my head, and accept her offer.
After nearly a decade of trying different therapies, treatments, and regular doctor check-ups with Sherry, I had begun to lose hope of ever healing. One morning, however, I walked into her office for my weekly check-up to find her waiting for me outside with a bundle of roses and a box of chocolates in her hands. Her hands were shaking, but her face looked happy. As I walked up to her, she stood, and held out her arms and said “We fixed it, Nadine. I told you I’d never give up on you.” I looked at her in astonishment, and started shedding tears of joy. I was finally free.
When I got home, I kicked my shoes off and ran into bed; finally I could relax. After 10 years of only half-sleeping at night, I had a lot to catch up on, and I didn’t want to lose a moment for it. Now that I had all the time in the world, there was nothing holding me back.
Fifteen years passed by; I was no younger a young soul though I wasn’t old, either. About 56 years into my life, I spent my days relaxing with my daughter and my husband. I had all the time in the world, and so did they and nothing could interrupt us ever again. I had lunch with Sherry once a week, but not for appointments anymore; I had lunch with her because she was the one person who never gave up on me, the one person who stuck by my side through my times of pain and held me while I cried. When I got a call from her saying she wanted to see me today, Monday, instead of our usual Fridays, it caught me off guard, but I replied with a definite yes. I kissed my daughter’s head, waved goodbye to my husband, and left out the door.
I got to the café at the corner of the street and saw Sherry sitting on the bench outside, a trembling coffee-cup in her left hand. Her face looked pale and scared. I rushed to her faster. “Sherry,” I said “What’s wrong? You’re not looking so great.”
She looked at me with sadness in her eyes, her pale face tear-stained. “Nadine,” she said “Remember when I told you that we’d fix it?”
I looked at her and nodded, not sure where this was going.
“I didn’t give up on you Nadine, but I must tell you that I must give up on me.”
She looked at me, looked deep into my eyes, and there I realized for the first time what had truly been happening all these years. My friend Sherry had tried to keep me strong when times were tough for me, but I never realized how well she truly understood me. She knew the pain I felt, and she knew how hard it was to hold on, and she knew about my frustration, too. She didn’t just know about it though; she felt it, too, because she also had breast cancer. But, unlike me, she hadn’t gotten better. All those days she’d tried to fill my mind with positive thoughts, positive energy, and hope, she wasn’t just trying to convince me I’d find a way out; she was trying to convince herself, as well.
“Sherry,” I said, chocking on my words “Why didn’t you tell me that you were diagnosed too?”
“I thought that if I told you I had no hope for me then you would think there would be no hope for you.”
With those words she spoke I broke down and the tears started to pour. They came out of my eyes and they sank into the floor, creating a stream. I sat beside Sherry. We stayed there till dark. But eventually, we had to leave and part and I knew that, that night, I would have the first half-sleep I had had in over 15 years.
I slept right through Monday night to Thursday afternoon when I woke up to a phone call. It was Stephanie, the secretary of Sherry’s office. “Nadine,” she said “I’m so sorry.”
That was the day I found out that my best friend had died. The one who believed and hoped for me when she didn’t for herself; she was the one who put on a brave face each time she saw me to give me a second shot at happiness, and now she was gone – forever.
It wasn’t a good year after that; I was constantly trying to forget about my loss, and about Sherry’s death, but each time, I was reminded of how much she had helped me, and how cruel it would be to just throw her out of my mind like that. She would have wanted me to keep her in my memories, and forget about the rest…but how could I?
I received another call, and I wondered what it would be this time. I answered, and it was Stephanie, the secretary at…Sherry’s…old office. “Nadine,” she said. “I’m so sorry.” My cancer was back.
I went to Sherry’s old office to find a tall man standing behind her desk. He looked the exact opposite of what Sherry looked like; there was no sense of happiness, and no sense of belief or hope – just a grim, old man sitting behind and older wooden desk. “Nadine,” he said “I’m sorry,” though he sounded nothing of the sort. “You do not have much longer. I’m sorry that we’ve told you so late, but it was not something we’ve had knowledge of for a long time. The most recent scan has shown us that the cancer has come back and spread to your brain like a wild-fire. I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you – I’m giving you a month, tops.”
I started to cry. But this time, there was no one to hold me. There was no one to put their arm around my shoulders and whisper into my ear “We’ll fix this Nadine. I won’t give up on you.” Because, the only person who had ever comforted me like that was gone, because these people had given up on her, and I too, would soon be following in her footsteps.
A few weeks past; the doctor was right – I felt week and could barley walk. I could hardly remember street names, and which side was left and which was right. There were two things I remembered though; two things that shone as bright as the sun in my mind, and these were the two things I was thinking of that last day in the hospital. All I could think of was my daughter’s face, and Sherry’s. I stared at my daughter, taking in her beauty, looking at the woman she had become. She looked at me in silence, and I at her, and neither of us said a word. Her father was outside. He knew that he couldn’t handle my final moments, and as much as I wanted him by my side, the last thing I wanted was the final thing I saw before I died to be my husband’s tear-filled eyes.
I saw my daughter look at the screen with my heart beat count; the numbers were decreasing, and fast. With all the energy I had left, I reached over to her and grabbed her hand and placed and envelope inside. I lifted myself slowly to her ear, and with soft lips I whispered “I love you. You will fix everything. Though I won’t be here to hold you tight through your tough times, know that I’m always here for you, in your heart. I won’t ever give up on you.” Those were my final words.
I just saw my mother die in front of my eyes. I’m only 30 years old, and she’s already gone. Gone, just like that - as fast as lightning. It’s so unbelievable that I don’t even think I’ve processed it fully, though I obviously understand because all I can do is cry into my mom’s pulse-less hand. Then I feel the crumpling of paper and remember the letter she gave me. So, I open it and read, and it says:
My daughter, my one and only living blood. You are such a special girl and I want you to know how proud I am of the woman you have become. Darling, I’m sorry my sickness caused me to not be there for you the way a mother should have been – the way I wanted to be there for you – and I want you to know that, the hardest part in my dying is knowing how much we didn’t get to do together because of me. I will regret it every moment until I die and this reaches you, and every moment afterwards, in Heave, Hell, or limbo, whichever place I go to.
Tonight I lose my life, but I gain knowledge; a knowledge that I wish to share with you. My darling Felicia, always live life to the fullest. Do what you desire and follow your dreams, even if they seem bizarre and unlikely to come true, because, even if it’s a one in a million chance, there is still a chance that that one could be you. Always think of other people, and try to put yourself in their shoes and try to sympathize, or at least realize what they’re going through; don’t be like your mother who realized her best friend was dying when it was just too late. If there was one thing I learned in my lifetime, it’s that life is full of surprises, some good, others bad. It’s a rollercoaster ride, with ups, downs, and a whole load of speed-bumps that rush you through, but you’ve got to get a hold of your emotions and try to control them all. You never know when you’re going to fulfill your destiny – you won’t ever be able to guess when you’ll find the love of your life and who he’ll be – you won’t be able to control what happens to the people you love and care about, and you won’t know when death will come until it’s knocking at your door; you just have to be ready, and when the time comes, you should be able to say ‘I don’t mind leaving so much, because I’ve lived my life to the fullest.’ Do it for me, Felicia. Do it for your mother, the one who wished someone had told her before her time ran up.
I love you, and remember, dearest, I’m always with you, and I’ll never give upon you.
With you always,
I folded the paper back, grabbed a fresh piece and a pen, and I started to write my mother back; she’d know what I’d written. She’d find out somehow; I would never give up.