July 16, 2012
There is a woman who walks among us almost every day, going pretty much unnoticed unless one might pause to recognize that unmistakable aura of illness and grueling treatment. Illness and fighting, I suppose I should say. She has breast cancer and was told this almost a year ago, just as she was readying her oldest daughter for her freshman year at Clemson University.
This woman is my friend. I met her years ago at the gym we both frequented as soon as we’d get all of our children to school in the mornings. As long as I have known her, she has eaten well, exercised regularly and really paid attention to her overall well-being.
Still, she got the news that so many dread. She had gotten her annual mammogram, received a phone call about a week after the initial test, then set her feet reluctantly on the path of denial, fear, confusion and, ultimately, resolve to beat the monster.
Being her friend through all of this has left me in awe of her strength. It’s left me in awe of all the people who get that dreaded phone call, who sit through that dream-like follow-up appointment, who look cancer in the face and refuse to blink. They are just regular people who one day are told they went from healthy to sick in a few short minutes, in the time it takes to utter the words, “You have cancer.”
I believe my friend will beat it; more importantly, she believes she will beat it. A positive outlook is the critical drug in any chemotherapy regimen; I know because I watched my mother step into the ring with the Big C when I was just a kid. To this day, it terrifies me.
My friend has taught me a lot about fear and bravery, but mostly about bravery. She was a terrific person to know before all this happened. Now, she is positively magnetic. She radiates a peace that is a comfort to everyone around her. She has redefined the word “brave” in my dictionary.
I know she is one of literally thousands of people we’ll encounter in any given year who are battling the mysterious leviathan named “cancer.” You probably know several patients who are climbing the same hill right now. No doubt you’re also learning a lot from those same people.
Here’s to researchers finding a cure before another generation has to wonder whether their path will cross cancer’s. And to my good and brave friend, I can do the 60 miles if you can.
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of “Southern Fried White Trash.” The book takes a humorous look at families and how we behave when thrown together for weddings, funerals and holidays. She has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide. Her next book, “Red Lipstick and Clean Underwear,” is eagerly expected in Fall 2012.