She was so proud. When the middle schools split, we all wanted to go together. Sitting in an open interview with my now boss, she said she didn't do any extra-curriculars and she wouldn't ever. We could see the dismissive look on his face, all of us thinking, TELL HIM. Tell him why. But she wouldn't. And then when we went to two schools, she stayed behind and I missed her. We emailed and met for occasional meals, but two kids later and those meals became fewer and fewer, only occasional emails. I won't even go into the guilt of how I should've kept in better touch, how I should've made the meals a monthly affair no matter what. I won't talk about the guilt, but it's there. When I heard this August that she wasn't returning, that she decided to stop the treatments, I knew. I knew what would happen, but until yesterday, I realized that my brain hadn't really admitted it but that I thought she'd keep fighting because I couldn't imagine any other alternative. I didn't know how much I'd miss her until she was gone, how the tears would come in waves and waves and how the lump in my throat just won't go away. My head hurts and my eyes are raw. And there's this underlying anger, where I want to kick things and hit the wall and swear loudly, because THIS ISN'T FAIR. This world was such a better place with her in it. Someday I'm going to show Luke that picture and tell him how she fought the hardest fight for eight years and how she won in the end, letting go on her own terms.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
She never talked about her cancer like it was more than a thorn in her side. She only ever joked about it, every day eating her Hostess snacks at lunch, she'd say, "I've got cancer! I don't have to watch what I eat, too." I loved her for that. Except once at Christmastime, she quietly said, "I want a cure for Christmas." I would've given away every Christmas present from then until the rest of my life to get that for her. Even though it was never really spoken, we knew there was never going to be a cure for her. That her remission periods only lasted a short while, before she'd need chemo again. She only ever missed half a day of school each week. She'd go get her chemo, then be back the next morning, early to tutor kids in math, quietly eating her Saltines without a complaint. I remember this one time, we were decorating posters for a holiday food drive. I cut penguins out of the dye-cut machine and somehow made a misshapen penguin. I put it on her food drive poster and she said, "I have cancer, and you're giving me a deformed penguin, too!?" We laughed so hard we cried, tears rolling down our faces, me holding my seven months pregnant belly, trying so hard to gather ourselves before the kids came back to class.