Monday, May 15, 2006

Exactly why life isn't fair

In my last post, I mentioned my friend whose cancer is out of remission.

I don't have many "friends" per se. I could use the excuse that I am a busy mother. But in all reality I am actually quite a homebody, anyway. I was never much of a partier or social butterfy. As teens, my sister got all the phonecalls, all the dates, while I sat by the pond in the back of our apartment complex and wrote poetry. In college, I think I went to one party during the four years I attended. When I worked outside the home, I kept the friendships at casual acquaintenships, never attending social events afterhours or on the weekends. I have never strayed far from my comfort zone, my home, and the loved ones I've gathered to me there. So for me, the few friends I do have are hard won, who have been there through the nitty-gritty toughest times of my life, whose trials I have held their hands through as they have held mine, whose humanity we each have shared. I don't have the patience or the time for casual friendships, so the women I count in that group are special to me in ways I can't begin to describe.

My friend Leigh is one of these special women.

If you had told me she would be my friend when I met her, I would probably have laughed in your face. I met her about seven years ago. The circumstances of our meeting were those that do not normally generate friendship, and in fact, tend to produce rivals, if not bitter enemies. She was my ex-husband's girlfriend/fiance when I met her. Since my ex and I still shared my daughter(a long story--my ex is a serial substitute dad, she an abondoned single mother--do the math), I met her when he came to pick up my daughter for one of his occassional weekend visits. Leigh and I talked briefly while The Girl dawdled about the house gathering her possessions. During that brief conversation despite my predisposed inclination not to like her, I was drawn to her. She had a spark to her and a love for life that, I could not deny, I instantly admired. Her young daughter with the wild carrot top curly hair and vibrant, ice-blue eyes stole my heart instantly as well.

After that meeting, Leigh and I talked over the phone arranging weekend visits and itineraries concerning my daughter. But the thing about Leigh is that any conversation with her is gaurenteed not to be limited by the topic at hand. Conversations with her are a dance from one topic to another with no rhyme or reason, just boundless energy and details. Despite myself, I was drawn into her conversations. Eventually, she eroded my barriers of social propriety and wallflower tendancies. Eventually we talked for hours. I discovered she is smart, funny, and unflinchingly devoted to her friends and family. In fact, when you are friends with Leigh, you become her family. She adopts you with a loyalty and love so passionate that you are at a loss to escape. And she is courageous and strong. She could take on an lion, anaconda and flock of giant vampire bats without batting an eye, vanquish them in a the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee, dust off her hands and sit down and visit with you for hours. Since then, we have been like sisters. Actually, I am closer to her than my own sister. I have been a shoulder an a resource to her through many dramas, and she was my rock through the absolute darkest days in my life. Anyway, back to the beginning, she eventually started to ask me for advice on how to deal with my ex. I told her I had none to give. After all, I had divorced him. She started having her doubts about him also. In all reality she was always out of his league. However, because of the passion with which she loves, although her mind knew the break-up was for the best, it took quite of bit of convincing her heart that was the case. To make a long story short, they eventually split-up, and shortly after that she discovered she was pregnant.

My friend Leigh has rarely been dealt a fair hand in life. I often think of her as a person with a dark cloud over her head. She moves from one drama to another, drawing anguish to herself like a magnet. Doubtless, she brings many of her tragedies upon herself. She is a person who must experience things for herself, who you find yourself saying "I told you so," to over and over again. Yet many of her trials are truly unfair. A single mother with two kids who works hard to always make ends meet, who goes without herself so her children are always provided for, should get some breaks from chance. Leigh is dealt few to none. In fact, it seems the more she tries, the more tragedy tries her. Her daughter's father only makes brief appearances in her daughter's life. Her daughter, like my son, has ADHD, which anyone with such a child can tell you is a trial in and of itself. One of her neighbors sexually assaulted Leigh's daughter and the legal system gave him a pass. Her son has asthma and multiple severe allergies, and, therefore has to be on a severe diet and constantly monitored so that he does not accidentally injest or come in contact anything that can trigger an attack. And he, too, was abandoned by his father (yes, my ex vanished before paternity could be established--like I said, a serial substitute dad. The "Real Thing" was just too much for him. Strangely, one of Leigh's male friends voluntarily signed paternity papers, claiming him as his own). She was fired from a job once due to not participating in her boss's sexual harrassment. She has been fired from jobs for taking too many days off to care for her sick children. She faced all these trials in her typical, "Is that all you got? Is it, is it? Well then, bring it!" fashion. She fought back. She decided to put herself through college for nursing to get ahead, to make a career for herself with which she would easily be able to provide for her children, only to have that dream taken from her as well. Cancer stole that dream, in this instance ovarian cancer. Like a thief in the night, in snuck into her body and put a screaching halt to all her dreams of succeeding.

This is a woman who stands up to the crap life throws her, grabs it by the balls and shows it who's boss. But you can't do that with cancer. When you get it, it is your boss and master. It steals your strength and ruins your body, in Leigh's case striking right at the heart of that which makes her female. Cancer is the equal opportunity killer. It doesn't care what color you are, if you are bad or good, or in the middle of finding the cure for AIDS. It can be your silent deadly companion for years before it strikes, betraying you by stealing and growing from the nourishment you have taken in. It renders you powerless. And the treatment, the chemo, makes you so sick you wish you were dead. But many times, the chemo, as sick and worn out as it makes you, is your only ally. It haults the cancer in its tracks, stopping it sometimes for years. But there is always a chance it will be back. Like the imposter it is, it can hide out sometimes for years, a silent deadly mass waiting patiently for its dark season of rebirth, when it can again strike with a vile vengance.

My friend, my rock, my anchor through the darkest days in my life, has been feeling sick again, just like she was before. She knows it is back. The hysterectomy and last round of chemo has only bought her another year before the cancer struck again. She doesn't know where yet. She will be going through a complete work-up in a few weeks.

She is not yet thirty years old. She hasn't had her break in life yet, and, at the risk of sounding like a petulant child here, I am going to say this anyway: it just isn't fair. But the cancer could care less. It is going to continue to eat her up and spit her out. I only hope her strength and courage is enough for round two. For herself, for her babies, and for all of us who love her, I hope and pray and bargain with the powers that be she can fight this off.


Anonymous Susan said...

This is a very powerful post. This day just keeps getting more and more sad.

I, too, will keep your friend in my thoughts and prayers.

15 May, 2006 12:33  
Anonymous Susan said...

Oh, I meant to say I'll keep both YOU and your friend in my thoughts. Having a hard time typing.

15 May, 2006 12:34  
Blogger HomeFireBlue said...

Beautiful post and I agree. It's just not fair.

I live my life by the words Everything Evens Out In The End, but it doesn't seem that way sometimes does it? It seems like fate smiles on some (undeserving) and plagues those good folks, the ones trying so hard.

I'll have your friend in my thoughts as well.


15 May, 2006 13:19  
Blogger wolfbaby said...

Cancer is a monsterous foe that takes in and all in its path. My mother passed from cancer back in 86 I was just a kid but I remember it well, its something that never leaves you. I will keep both your families in my prayers. Both of you keep fighting the good fight. I can tell you from personal experience that a friend like you is worth their weight and then some in gold to a single mom going through this. She's lucky to have you.

15 May, 2006 18:10  

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