Lucy first entered my consciousness through the National Cervical Cancer Coalition newsletter. She had started a chapter down in Texas, she had been diagnosed just two months before me, and she was my age, and those three factors combined to pique my interest.
Unlike me, Lucy had been given eight to twelve months to live, and I easily found her blog, which spelled out the whole saga in bimonthly increments. The blog became part of my evening ritual, an appetite that was fed only by her updates. As long as she was okay, I would be okay. Several times, I considered reaching out to her, but felt it would be disrespectful to compare my trials to her possible death sentence. I felt like a voyeur, but I couldn’t stop reading.
She took a turn for the better around the holidays, and I mentally cheered her on as she celebrated the Christmas, new year, and birthday the doctors had told her wouldn’t likely come. My visits to her blog grew less frequent, as I figured her need for my silent support had lessened.
Then, suddenly, the news took a dramatic turn for the worse. The cancer had begun spreading again, all the way up to the nodes in her neck, and for the first time, her buoyant tone had faltered. Months of frantic research had taught me what this meant, and horrified, I messaged her on Facebook before I had time to talk myself out of it.
Subject: A fellow cancer friend
I came across your info through the NCCC newsletter, and I have been following your progress ever since. I was diagnosed around the same time as you, and I’m your age as well. My second surgery was last month, and although I can’t come close to relating to your exact situation, I just wanted to let you know that I’m here if you ever need to vent, or cry, or even just talk.
Best of luck, and hope to hear from you!
Mindful that she was busy with treatments and received messages of support constantly, I didn’t expect a reply.
She wrote back within the hour.
Wow, how refreshing to hear from you! Is your cancer cervical as well? I would love to talk to you sometime! Where do you live? I hope your surgery was successful!!
Thanks for reaching out to me!
Her reply brought on a flood of strength I hadn’t felt since my surgery. Here was this beautiful, sunshine-y, eternally optimistic girl, telling me that my concern meant something to her. I called her the moment I left my project that evening, and she answered on the third ring.
Her voice was deeper than I had expected, and despite the differences in our prognoses, we traded war stories like seasoned fighters. I was due uptown for dinner with some of my visiting China acquaintances, but didn’t want to lose my signal by going down into the subway, so I weaved my way through the steamy manhole vents on 7th Avenue as we talked. I liked her instantly, and as she told me of her troubles with doctors and friends, I tried my best to relate.
The more I talk with other cancer survivors, the more it strikes me how fickle the modern friendship has become. Shortly after my diagnosis, one of my closest friends in the world dropped me like a hot sheet of macarons. Just weeks before the start of chemotherapy, she had dropped off the face of my world, save one oblivious email asking if I wanted to get away for a girls’ weekend in Italy in a few months. Consumed with my new reality of daily trips to the hospital, the loss didn’t hit me until well into July, when I realized that she hadn’t called, emailed, or dropped by to check on me from her apartment a few blocks away. Her desertion felt like a death of sorts, so when Lucy told me of her own cruel betrayal in her much more urgent hour of need, indignation flared up on her behalf. How dare that bastard.
Our conversation came to an end just after I had fought my way through Times Square, and she signed off with the most bittersweet of goodbyes, and a desire to meet in person someday.
It was great to hear from you, and I’m so happy everything has worked out so well for you.
Lucy’s words hit me like a punch to the solar plexus. With tears trickling down my cheeks, I called my mother immediately to tell her how much I love her.