Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Friend Has Cancer

This post is not about horses.  It is about a friend and client, Amy.  Amy is the single mother of a fifteen year old daughter, she is a highly educated professional and she has cancer.  Breast cancer.  A highly aggressive form of breast cancer.

On the day she was diagnosed the oncologist told her that there was a 30% chance that her cancer had already spread.  She has just finished her third chemo treatment and there are three more to follow. She will definitely require radiation treatments and will surely undergo surgery at some time in the future. Mortality?  If she knows the odds she hasn't told me.

The week Amy was diagnosed, her high paying job was eliminated.  I don't know the reason and perhaps she doesn't either, but to the company's everlasting credit she will have a job, salary and insurance until her chemo is complete.

Amy is the person who catches everything so that you and I don't.  When I first met her she was on crutches...foot surgery.  Because of her weight she has high blood pressure and diabetes.  She has trouble with both knees and at least one needs replacement.  I could go on but I won't.

Unable to exercise and unable to lose weight by changing her diet she had stomach reduction surgery earlier this year and has lost a considerable amount of weight.  Attractive to begin with she looks great, but don't think this has been an easy solution.  She cannot eat liquids and solids at the same time without becoming nauseous and vomiting.  But her blood pressure and diabetes now seem to be under control.  And so it goes.

Her family lives out of town so she has endured most of chemo's bad days on her own, just sleeping and feeling terrible. Her family and out of town friends have not forgotten her, but they have lives and problems to deal with as well.  Often it is hard to be where your heart and your thoughts want to take you.  I am sure she has local friends, but I don't know anything about them.

Yesterday, Tuesday, she had a hollow-eyed, pale, hunted look.  It is a look I would associate with the dying.  She had a high fever, 100.1 and her doctor said to call back if it reached 100.5,  I hated to leave her but she was much too ill to talk. Today she was feeling much better, so perhaps it was just a 24-hour thing.  Just something else to deal with.  It seems that every day her misery arrives in a different package.

 Last Friday she broke down and cried because a relationship with a male friend had gone bust and I didn't know what to do for her.  She apologized to me for God's sake.  I laughed and told her that she was not allowed to feel sorry for herself.  To see her cry broke my heart.

 On Sunday I called and left a message of support and concern for her, which she appreciated.  I was relieved that I could leave the message on her voice mail. A phone message is something I had done before. It's easy to do and cost me nothing but a little time, and I was glad to do it.

I have asked Amy several times if she needed me to do anything for her, but the answer has always been, "No, but thanks for asking."

I've never been this close to the suffering of a cancer patient before.  The sickness from chemo seems like its own hell, a kind of death.  All I can do is to try to be there for her and ask how she feels on a particular day.  I can let her talk when she wants to and respect her silence without getting angry at her on the bad days.   I know she must lie in bed and wonder if she is going to live long enough to see her daughter graduate from high school, get married, or hold her first grandchild.  And I don't have any of the answers for her.

I've always thought that to say, "I'm so sorry," has never been enough,  It bespeaks our impotence and in this case impotence may be the perfect word.  I may be watching someone that I like and care for die and all I can do is to try to be there for her.  Maybe that is enough for now, and I refuse to say, "I am so, so sorry."

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