The Dawkter's Wife - It's all champagne and caviar now … dahling

Surviving Cancer

January 22, 2010

It’s complicated…

One of the OB/GYN’s who helped with the c-section when I delivered Zoe was a breast cancer survivor.

Her name was Beth.

After Zoe was born, she met up with me once while I was running between the NICU and my hospital bed to share her story of survival with me and to tell me not to give up. I remember her showing me her ID badge with her black hair and then pointing to the white-blonde mop on her head. “This is how it grew back in!”

I didn’t see Beth for a couple of years until I joined book club. The first time I showed up, Beth had gotten there first. She had lost all of her hair from the chemo and was hopeful.

That was barely a year ago.

She went downhill pretty fast this year. Each time our book club met she seemed weaker and more sick. For awhile, her hair grew back in and then she was hit with more chemo.

I was really surprised by the reaction of the other members of our book club. These are all women who had worked with Beth for years and were close to her. When Beth stopped working and could no longer come to book club, none of them wanted to call her. The group handed me her phone number and tried to make me call her right then and there…I couldn’t do it either. It took me 3 days to work up the courage to ask her if I could come over to visit.

It bothered me that they couldn’t reach out to her and were expecting the newcomer to the group to do it. I even felt a little angry about it both for myself and for Beth. How terrible to be that sick and have your friends avoiding you.

I just didn’t understand…..

….until Sunday at book club.

Beth had gone into liver failure and was barely lucid. We talked about the Christmas book club party that we had at her house and…everyone was happy that they had been able to go and say good-bye because…they were too overcome with grief and shock to know what to say to her or how. No one wanted to go to her house by themselves, they were afraid of imposing themselves on her or saying the wrong thing.

People cried.

Beth passed away this morning. My memories of her are limited to Zoe’s birth and her talk with me about surviving cancer and life going on , our book club meetings, going to her house once for coffee and a chat when she was too sick to get out of bed, and the Christmas party I put together in her dining room.

We weren’t close friendsn…but she is someone that I cared about for very complicated reasons that reach back into the dark and frightening place of my own cancer experience.

I feel very sad today … even if it doesn’t make sense for me to feel this way.

Life does go on, but I am reminded of just how fragile it really is.

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