Monday was Mary's birthday. I wanted the gift to be special, because she is special to me. I thought a lot about it. Mary is remarkable for a lot of reasons, but this is a biggie, right here: At Easter-time, 2008, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through all the steps, just as I did. Mary's cancer is triple negative, which makes it worse than mine. She picked up with me right after Christmas of 2008. After being a tremendous support to me, becoming a dear friend who understood what I meant even when I couldn't come up with the words myself, in Easter 2009, Mary was again diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember telling her, "Mary, next year, just buy a ham..." Despite my joke, her news sent me reeling. I cried. I cried hard. I cried for her, initially, but before it was done, I was crying for myself, because really, there are no guarantees for any of us. It had never occurred to me that cancer could return that quickly, and it was devastating news to me.
Mary was stunned and reeling too. Then she took a deep breath and she opted for a bilateral mastectomy. She endured the weeks with a drain in place. She went back to work right away. Through it all, her calm practicality brought me back to earth as well. Again, I found myself saying "It is what it is" and moving forward in my own life. (Don't ever underestimate the importance of a role model.)
Like I said, Monday was Mary's birthday, and I wanted it to be special. I kept thinking how much her friendship has meant to me. I realized also how much of our relationship is based on that ugly thing called breast cancer. And you know what? Suddenly I did not want it to be. So for her birthday, I bought Mary a bottle of champagne, and champagne glasses. I told her to celebrate herself, to raise a toast to herself in the company of her family. I also got three plaques with the best advice for living that I know: "Live well" and "Love deeply" and "Laugh often".
We both have stepped out of the shadow of the cause that threw us together. We both are living life post-cancer. The end of the story is uncertain, but you know what? This chapter here, this part of the story, right now, by God, it looks pretty darn good.
A trouble shared is a trouble halved.
A joy shared is a joy doubled.
PS: Let's do this year different.