"I have breast cancer."
This is what my healthy, 44 year old friend Stephanie says to me, standing in my kid's playroom, surrounded by toy trucks and a plastic basketball hoop.
It wasn't exactly an ideal place to tell someone you have poison in your body, let alone find out yourself. But some things just happen how they happen. So there we were, with the ugly word "cancer" floating in between us.
I had called her daughter the night before to come and take some surprise birthday pictures of me and kids for my husband's 31st birthday. Stephanie happily came along to help with getting all three sets of eyes looking in the same direction. This was done with bribes of yogurt covered raisins and fruit snacks.
She didn't know her doctor would call her that afternoon with the results of her biopsy. She didn't know how quick, blunt and hammer like the doc would drop the news on her. Like Wile E. Coyote getting smashed with an Acme anvil. Their phone conversation lasted less than 3 minutes. So, some things happen how they happen.
We hugged each other and cried. I still feel guilty that she was the one to initiate the hug. My brain was still ringing with that stupid word "cancer." I'm as serious as cancer. He's like a cancer. No pleasant metaphor, simile or idiom relates to this word.
The rest of the time at my house is sort of a messy haze about conversations of what's next and trying to think of the right words to say to her teenage daughter, the photographer of the afternoon. I love words. I love writing them and reading them. But it turns out, sometimes you have no words. Nothing clever or funny or reassuring. I had just cooked a pizza and sent it home with them. I prayed it would taste good. Isn't that a funny thing to pray for that day? Of all the things.
Despite cancer's reputation, Steph has a plan. A fighting plan. She is having a mastectomy next week. It's intensely ironic that we shared more than one joke this summer about our less than endowed chests. How we both felt we don't even need a sports bra. How nursing kids seemed to deflate us somehow. Did I mention this is the friend that ran my first marathon with me? The marathon that had 14 miles of running up a mountain? Life has a funny way of creating intensely ironic situations.
After she recovers from her breast being removed, (Really? Is that something you recover from or just accept and move on?) she will have chemo. I know it doesn't seem fair to have both, and in that order, but some things happen how they happen, and this is the plan.
I kind of feel bad for the stupid blob of cancerous growth inside her right now. Because she is a no nonsense kind of gal. She's full of fire and fight. She has an army of people on the ready for prayers, meals, shoulders, and whatever else her entire family might need to see this thing out the door. It thinks it's all bad just hanging out in her boob with it's bad boy reputation and big scary moments it thinks it causes. She'll show it. It doesn't stand a chance.
Steph started a blog you can follow here. We are also putting together a 5K in the coming months. So if you haven't ever run one or like a good excuse like kicking cancer's sorry a**, then this is your chance.