I saw Kelsie today. It’s the first time I’ve seen her in months, maybe four. It was only an hour of my day but it was the best hour.
She looks like she feels like shit* (for her) but she’s still prettier than just about anyone I know. She’s thin, really thin, and has only the tiniest bit of fuzz on her head, still no eyelashes and still no eyebrows. Unlike every other 40-something woman in Los Angeles she has no fuzz on her top lip. Lucky Kelsie.
I’ve tried visiting her for months. For some time she didn’t feel up to it which I can understand but only in words. I’m pretty sure I’ll never know how she felt… or at least I hope that’s the case. Once she felt up to it I got a cold and because of my own personal BS I have a limited immune system and that took 10 days to clear up. Of course a few days after I was better Jane got it and shortly thereafter Alexander got hit hard, it was a month of everyone being sick and every day of it was driving me crazy because Kelsie is my touchstone. When I’m not sure if the world is crazy or I am Kelsie has the unique ability to unravel everything and in moments find the essence of the issue. She’s never been afraid to tell me when I’m wrong. When Kelsie tells me that I’m in the right it’s like having all the world leaders standing behind you nodding solemnly. It’s a strength that few will ever be lucky enough to feel.
So today was a good day. Sitting on a sofa with dogs snorting and farting and catching up a little and talking about cancer and husbands and kids and really nothing at all.
We talked about how she found her lump and then I’m sort of not really paying attention to the fact that I’m in someone else’s living room and I’m giving myself a breast exam sort of absentmindedly because it’s normal to pull your tits out in your friend’s living room. Right?
I know, that’s what Kelsie said too. I asked her if everyone sort of started feeling for lumps when she talks about finding hers and she looked at me with yellow-green eyes and said, “No.”
And the awesome thing is that there’s none of that bullshit babble that we all use to make someone feel comfortable when they’re being totally inappropriate. She didn’t try to make me feel like it was okay or say, “No, but I understand that you’re uncomfortable/comfortable/tacky-as-hell…”. Just no. That was the answer.
So I took my hands out of my bra and concentrated on my friend.
* Looks like shit is a relative term. It’s a horrible term. She looks sick… but still probably better than the rest of us. Argghhh… foot in mouth.
I made my way over the Kelsie this afternoon for a visit. She’s not feeling well for a bit after her treatments so finding time to visit in the window before her chemo is a necessity. Of course I’m competing with much needed naps and necessary errands so it’s about shoehorning a bit of time in between things that are more urgent.
I don’t really know what cancer is. I mean I understand that it’s a mutation which creates tumors and unchecked death. I understand how we treat it to some degree but what I don’t understand, what I can’t possibly understand is what it’s like to put your life on hold while you suffer through treatments that are near deadly themselves.
Kelsie was explaining a bit of the culture of cancer to me and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I guess I’m busy looking at her and thinking how great it is that she has eyelashes and perfect skin. I can’t see a stomachache or fatigue so I get to pretend it isn’t there. It’s not that I’m trying to be Miss Merry Sunshine rather it’s that I can’t understand what I can’t see. I try to imagine but then I don’t let my brain stretch too far because it’s painful to imagine my friend in agony.
So I sort of see the surface. And I assume we all do to some extent.
I see Kelsie and go home and examine my breasts doe the first time not ignoring my armpits where she had also found a lump. I feel a little panicked because she’s the strongest woman I know and if that motherfucker cancer could invade her body then no one is safe.
I find myself talking too sweetly and then I check myself. Kelsie isn’t dying, she’s a little spacey but in fairness I’ve showed up on the wrong day once already this week and will probably do the same next week. I try to pretend like everything’s normal because this is the new normal. It’s not normal though and even though it’s comfortable it’s only comfortable because of who we are, not because of where we are in time and space.
I come home looking to escape with a good blog and read that Dawn is having a first treatment for her cancer, her melanoma, and I go back to the bathroom to re-examine my breasts and also now every spot on my body including this one odd freckle on my foot. I curse my tan lines and my olive skin and have a moment, just a fleeting moment, of self awareness where I realize that I don’t know cancer, we don’t know cancer because we’re afraid. The folks we love so much are living our worst nightmare and if we look too closely we’re scared we’ll catch it. Maybe not catching the cancer, but catching the pain, and that shit’s scary.