Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cancer Man: Mirror

She sounded older on the phone and right away she reminded me of somebody's mom --like the mom of one of my old friends, one who maybe did shift work at the local plant and spent her days off in the summer lounging on a lawn chair in the backyard, drinking budget cola spiked with budget rum and burning the up the afternoon with a dime store paperback.

That might even be more or less who Suzie was before she got sick. She told me she had a son, a little boy who was just starting school.

"I haven't worked in two years," she told me.

Her occupation before she got cancer was assistant manager at a convenience store.

"There was a lot of lifting," Suzie said. "I spent all day on my feet, on a concrete floor. The doctor said I had to quit that, that I was done with that."

She didn't really miss it much. The job sucked, but it was better than being a professional cancer patient.

"But at least I get to spend more time with my son. Before this, I used to work a lot of nights and if I was doing that right now, I'd barely see him. He'd be in school while I was home."

Suzie was definitely a "the glass is half full" type, which was amazing given that the cancer had taken a breast and spread into the bones around her collar and shoulder.

"My plastic surgeon wants to get my reconstruction done before they start chemo and radiation."

She wanted her doctor to take out her uterus, which apparently was what everyone (including the doctor, she said) believed was causing her cancer.

"Just take it out," Suzie said. "Get it out of me and let me live."

Her cancer doctor wouldn't do it. 

She changed the subject, talked about ducks and rabbits.

The rabbits lived across the road. She seemed to think they were pets that had gotten loose, gone wild, but were never brave enough to escape their yard --except when one of them ran out in front of a car. 

We'd passed over the remains of one as we left her driveway.

The ducks lived in her backyard. Her father had run over a nest with the mower some time back, but they'd managed to save some of the eggs, which later hatched. They'd been raising them ever since.

"They just follow us around the yard," she said then told me she'd hurt her shoulder over the weekend while scooping to pick up one of the ducklings.

The doctor, she expected, would give her hell about that.

Eventually, we talked about her illness. She was resigned to it and a life of gradual loss. Already, the cancer had cost her a job and very likely the man who was her son's father.

He wasn't in the picture any more and she kind of missed him. She missed the car he'd given her more.

"It was a gift for my birthday from my son's father and his Papaw. I miss that car. I loved that car."

Before she'd been diagnosed, she'd drove a sporty Mazda, a stick shift, that she said could fly.

The doctor made her give that up. She wasn't supposed to drive unless she absolutely had to and a stick shift was too much for her to manage with her shoulder the way it was.

At some point, she told me the cancer in her bones was stage four. The doctor couldn't really operate on it, not without it causing the disease to spread --and even if they did, could she really do without a collar bone and a shoulder?

She didn't know the answer to that.

So, they were going to contain it --or try. About once a month, she said she'd have to go in for chemo therapy. This would continue for the rest of her life.

"I guess you'll do whatever you have to, to live," she said and laughed.

I wanted to laugh along with her, but couldn't bring myself to do it.

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