Thursday, August 04, 2005


I wear a Livestrong bracelet most days. Mostly I wear it because I like the sentiment, just the word "Livestrong", and I started using it as a secret reminder tool not to freak out and beat a certain co-worker to death with my stapler. So far it's working and really, why mess with a good thing?

Initially, though, I wore it because there's a lot of cancer in my orbit these days.

Don't get me wrong, there's been plenty of cancer in my orbit for quite some time, I grew up near and during the construction of a New England nuclear facility. There's no scientific evidence that it's causing the number of cases of different kinds of cancers in my hometown area but anecdotal evidence would suggest I was smart to get the hell out and a Silkwood shower upon returning from a visit would not be completely off the deep end of the crazy scale.

This year there's cancer back home and here in New York, with people who have lived near the hometown for years and with people who have lived there a relatively short while. And at least one of them thinks the Livestrong bracelet is stupid. Which is fine, I can take it off when the time comes.

One of the women (they're all women) has lung cancer. And here's the thing - she's dying.

I don't mean in that, "We've all got to go sometime" kind of way. I'm talking about the way where the doctor gives you a number in years or months or weeks.

My front brain, the part in charge of getting up every day and getting out of bed and doing what needs to be done has heard that and accepted it and made the appropriate plans, the sort of plans that result in me and one of my friend's daughters telling each other to SHUT UP because we don't want to cry in the office. I'm good like that, all about the practical, very good during a crisis.

DURING a crisis. Not so good by myself in the thinking mode, though.

The thing that's keeping the front brain moving and doing and walking the dog and going to the movies and planning for the legion of weddings in my near future is a tiny voice whose job is denial. That tiny voice in my head is a pro, I tell you, expensive and worth every penny.

"Dying, right, like dying as in she's going to be really sick for a long while and it's going to seem like forever but then things will even out and Christmas will be like we always do it so there's no need to change the picture of what Christmas looks like in your mind because we won't need that, we need that space for my collection of Cleopatra memorobilia so, please, just use the old Christmas picture, it's fine, we can keep doing things that way. Now, get your ass out of bed and feed the cats 'cause there ain't no denying that those beasts will eat you alive if you don't get a can of tuna surprise open in a damn hurry!"

But the thing is - she's dying. We might get another summer. We might only get another Christmas. We might get less than that. And, of course, we might get more because the more we learn about cancer the more the lesson is that we don't know jack shit.

I don't have much of a reason to be telling you this but I had to anyway. A conversation this week (one that happened outside my head) cleared the fog from this information and led me to believe that the shorter estimates are being used to plan so I am slowly and carefully shutting down the expensive tiny voice because if I don't I might do this wrong and that would be regrettable.

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