Friday, May 20, 2011

Life Lessons

I've mentioned before on this blog and also on my Facebook account about my dear friend, Anne, who is suffering from brain cancer.

She underwent major brain surgery a few weeks ago, and although she is home now and under the excellent care of Roswell Park Cancer Institute, her doctors give her a time frame of around two years.

Despite our age difference (I'll be 29 and Anne will be 83), I never had a closer friend and confidant than I have had these 13 or so years with Anne.  I'm naturally an old soul (some would say an old fart) and she is very much a perpetual young soul.. so the age difference balanced out well. 

She has always been an example to me to not let life's obstacles beat you.. but to keep charging full speed ahead.. a life lesson I still have yet to learn.  Despite being slowed by the cancer, the radiation and the chemo... she may have slown down, but she is still charging ahead. I admire her for her courage and her strength - not only in dealing with her own illness, but in caring for her husband who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. 

I spoke briefly with her this evening before her next chemo treatment and she told me that she is now looking into assisted living apartments.  "Did you ever think you would hear ME talking about assisted living?"  No.. it's true, I never imagined this outcome for a woman so full of life and vitality, but I told her this decision proves her intelligence and bravery... to which she replied, "you calling me intelligent is something I never thought I would hear YOU talking about!"

It's so easy for us (and I certainly lump myself into this category) to wallow in self pity.. asking "why me?".  While it's healthy to feel the emotions we have while we receive them.. to grieve and feel the pain or despair.. it's too easy to stay in that despair and let it consume us.  Anne is accepting the inevitable.. as she always has.. and looking to see how she can keep moving forward.. even if it means big changes.

She has taught me a great many things about life during our friendship... sometimes just by being a sounding board for me to work out problems on my own.  I'd like to think I taught her a thing or two as well over the years... and even she admits I have corrupted her a bit (she was such a nice "old" lady when I met her!).  Now I have come to realize the very brutal reality that now she is teaching me to die.  We don't discuss things like "life expectancy" or "how long she has"... we just talk about what needs to be done in life now.. and how to best accomplish those tasks.

She keeps telling me the punch line of an old joke.. that she doesn't want to go to her grave in pristine condition, but sliding into the grave bruised and worn out exclaiming: "Damn! What a ride!"

I ask all of you out there to continue to keep Anne in your thoughts and prayers.