07 September 2016

read on

I have a coworker who was recently diagnosed with stomach cancer. Stage four. It originally presented itself as a lump on her neck. It had metastasized.
Life's a funny thing. Cancer's a bitch of a funny thing.

This woman has worked for our hospital for decades. I've worked here for merely a year.
But she's my friend. I love her spunky attitude and her dry humor. She's not everyone's cup of tea, but she's mine.

We would eat lunch together. We talked books and exercise (she loves tennis and running) and family and religion. We talked food and love and workplace drama and volunteering at the state park.

I knew when she had the biopsy done. Our pathologist diagnosed it. I ran her bloodwork. I saw the results. I knew the outcome. I saw the numbers.
Those numbers. I felt her tears when she saw the numbers. We googled things. She had a PET scan at MD Anderson. Our local community hospital doesn't have that technology. She's having chemo done at our hospital. Every Thursday.

At the beginning of her treatment, she still came to work. I sat with her in the break room and distracted her so that she could eat a container of yogurt without vomiting. I made her laugh. I listened to her. I asked her questions.

I don't see her in the break room anymore. Instead I saw her name on the ER board one day. I crossmatched her units of blood. I continuously run her labs. I say a little prayer when I call her criticals to her nurses.

Every once in a while I get a few minutes on a Thursday afternoon to go upstairs and sit with her during chemo. She's doing better. Her eyes water constantly, a side effect of the treatment. Her tears are milky and leave a residue around her eyes. We make jokes about her white blood cell counts.

We still talk about books and how she can't enjoy a margarita anymore and the increased time she gets to spend with her granddaughter, and how she tries to volunteer again. Short spurts are better.

She's a beast. An inspiration. She's a strong bitch. I might have given up if I was her. But she keeps on keepin' on.

She's got a ton of time to read lately, and she's been passing her finished books to me. I'll come in to work and find a book on my desk. Literary presents.
I'll read them. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Then I pay them forward. Mom's got one right now. The next one will go to the pathology secretary at work.

I sat with her at another coworker's retirement party last week. She ate two bites of lasagna. Her toenails were painted teal. She looked fabulous and tired.

I do miss my friend.

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