She sat at my kitchen table with her foot resting on the chair and her knee pulled up to her chin. Her blond hair perfectly placed in a messy bun, juxtaposed against my un-purposed messy morning hair. We planned a coffee date for first thing in the morning, after she dropped her kids off at daycare. We picked my house because the baby likes to sleep late. She had a lunch date with another friend later that day: she was trying to fit in as many visits as she could.
“What can I get you to drink?” I asked as I instinctively placed a mug under the coffee maker. “Coffee?”
“No thanks, just water,” She replied. “I’m changing the way I eat. No coffee, nothing processed. I want to make my body as strong as I can. I’m getting ready to fight this.”
I wasn’t sure if she wanted to talk about it. I said I was going to take her lead.
We met the year before at Taekwondo. Her oldest son was in my youngest son’s class. For weeks we would sit and talk about the superficial realities of life: Work, kids, husbands, weather… Slowly, our friendship developed and we would occasionally meet up outside of the gym. I’m always happy to make new friends.
“So, when did this all start?”
“Remember back in February, when I had pneumonia?”
She was gone for weeks from Taekwondo, I remembered. She came back and it seemed to take ages for her to fully recover. When the snow started to melt, I ran into her in the neighborhood, walking with her husband and two boys – it was the first time I had ever met her younger son, who wasn’t more than three. We vowed to have a playdate with the kids once the weather was a little nicer.
“The chest pain never went away, so they did an x-ray and they found two spots. I had a biopsy. Then I had a CT scan. Then they wanted a PET scan.”
I listened intently, trying not to ask too many questions.
A few months ago we all went out together for a friend’s birthday party. Our friend was turning 33. Just like me… and just like her. We joked that 33 would be the best year; it had to definitely be better than 32! And we toasted to that, them with their wine glasses and me with my diet pepsi (since I was pregnant and all). We vowed to have more get-togethers after that – but we didn’t
“They found a few spots in my hip bones and in my leg bones. I’m going for my first appointment with the oncologist on Wednesday.”
Wednesday was my birthday. There would be not be another toast to 33 on my birthday. No this time.
“I’m going to tell her that I don’t want timelines and I don’t want numbers. I’m going to beat this. I know I will!”
I painted a reassuring smile on my face and placed my hand over hers.
I waited until she left to feel the sadness and the heartache – for her and for me.
I don’t think I could ever be so strong if I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer.