A surge of nausea crashes through my belly, seizing my organs, constricting my muscles, shortening my breath. I am stunned. Paralyzed. Unyielding, heart racing, my eyes struggle to make sense of the perfunctory words on my computer screen.
She is dead. Breast Cancer. Gone.
What happened? She was fine last I had heard.
The remnants of the email blur into small print –boilerplate logistical details, funeral, donations and the family she left behind. Two kids, a husband…an entire life left unlived.
I never met her. I didn’t know anything about her, other than she was a mother, and the wife of an acquaintance. He shared that she was healing and was doing well last time we spoke. When was that? May –a mere eight months ago. Could this happen to me? My mind flashes ahead eight months. March break with the kids, summer vacation, grade eight grad then bam it’s over, no thanksgiving, no Christmas. It’s too difficult to grasp. It’s overwhelming. My eyes fill with tears. I fight them stubbornly, an attempt to keep the floodgates of worry and fear sealed shut. I refuse to let doubt penetrate my body.
Did she do everything she was supposed to? Was she compliant? He said she had chemotherapy, radiation, and a double mastectomy. He mentioned a support group but there was nothing dire. We all donated to her walk –the same walk I did a year later –raising money for women’s cancers. Hopeful, active, with our futures ahead, united but apart.
Now she is dead.
I don’t know why I am so shaken by this news. But I am.
You are told the statistics. You read them. You hear them. Tweets, Posts, conversations; everyone shares their cancer stories, their staging, their odds. You meet women like you -survivors–proud and forever changed, but breathing, loving, enduring and hoping.
Why is she gone?
One day, later on, when the end of my life is announced, I pray the words don’t bring another woman to her knees, like this has done to me.