Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Unthinkable

I won't be visiting much over the next little while. My closest friend, Z, the one who has power of attorney over my estate and medical care has either a treatable cancer, or lymphoma that has gone on too long, undiagnosed and untreated, to be anything but a death sentence. She has had polymyalgia rheumatica and so has ignored the dry hacking cough for so long I can't remember when it started. I remember asking her about it as long as 6 or 8 months ago. She thought it was one thing and another. Finally she began to have trouble breathing. It was nothing in her lungs; they were clear. She worries about money. Worries about unnecessary medical expenses and doesn't want to worry her kids or burden them. She has been a vegetarian for 40 years but for the last year or more has been very careless about eating well. Prefers to manage it all homeopathically. But her sed rate is alarmingly high. The prednisone to treat the polymyalgia rheumatica might have been the cause of her lack of apatite, lack of interest in food, fatigue, weakness, depression, the low grade fever, night sweats. She has lost so much weight, but blamed it on the prednisone. She thinks she can treat this illness with fresh juices. She worries about the fact that she hasn't the strength to mow the lawn. And it goes on like this for so long. Now they have found a mass in the primary bronchi which, thus, far appears to be lymphatic tissue. Friday she was told that it is either bad news but treatable, or bad news and untreatable. A biopsy is scheduled for Monday. She is convinced it is lymphoma that has spread throughout her body. Too late to treat. I argue with her. We don't know yet. She has all the symptoms and has for so long, thinking it was the prednisone that caused the night sweats, the fatigue and all the rest. She has finally told her children. Her daughter flew in last night. Z asked me to come over yesterday and help her get ready for her kids. God forbid they should now how hard it's been for her. Her back lawn is a meadow. The two dogs matted and shaggy. All I can do is sit on the back porch with her and listen.

She has been the patient friend, the rock of Gibraltar, my sane and steady friend since we were both 17 and early admissions students at the University of Utah. We were the only girls with the first group of students ever admitted to the U in their brand new Early Admissions program. We could not have been less alike. She has always said hers was the perfect loving and supportive family. Her father was Chairman of the Math Department.

My father was getting his PhD in psychology and I couldn't have had a worse family life. My reasons for skipping my senior year were complicated-- mostly I just wanted to get out of my parents house. My home life had always been difficult, so living in the dorms at the U sounded like paradise to me. Z continued living at home with her family.

There have been times in our long history together when one or the other of us was living half a world away from the other. Years at a time when we were not in touch. But whenever we saw each other, it was as if no time at all had passed and we would again take up the conversation as if it had been paused for the length of time it would take to make a cup of tea. I can't imagine life without her. I never thought for a second that I would outlive her. It is unthinkable. I am numb and furious.

20 comments:

Freida Bee, MD said...

I am really sorry to hear this. She is very fortunate to have you by her side right now, perhaps, needing you now more than ever.

PENolan said...

Everything I can think of to say seems like words learned by rote that we say when things are awful - so awful our minds can't stay there long enough to remember how it feels to face what you're going through or to imagine it if we've never been through it ourselves.

Don't get lost in the depths of sadness - and I bet Mawley understands.

giggles said...

Oh Peggy and Z.....xoxoxo

Tengrain said...

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Z. I'm keeping you in my thoughts, Utah.

You have a long and rich history together, I'm glad that you both have been there for each other for so many years.

Regards,

Tengrain

La Belette Rouge said...

I am speechless....ugh. I am so, so, so very sorry. I so understand the numb and furious feelings. Oh, I am sorry I can't be more articulate. I'd rather give you a hug than continuing to prattle on.xoxo

Dean Wormer said...

Sorry about this, Utah. Thoughts and prayers.

Dusty said...

So very sorry Peg. ;(

Cat said...

I am so very sorry and I do hope that one of those miracles takes hold in this case...

Utah Savage said...

Thank you guys. I'm waiting to hear how the biopsy went. Wondering how long it will be till we know whether it's treatable or not. If it's treatable will she agree? This is the kind of thing that makes me furious since I am helpless to actually do anything. It must be her choice what she does, but... Yet it would be my decision, if I were in her place, to say goodbye to friends and be thankful I wasn't going to have to take my own life to avoid my mother's fate.

If this is babble please excuse me. I'm paralyzed, incapable of doing anything to put my own house in order, but I want fiercely to go put Z's house in order. But her daughter is here now, taking charge. She is very capable of creating order out of chaos. She will be the one to give Z's three sons their marching orders and making sure they carry out their assigned tasks. Z has kept her kids in the dark, wanting to protect them, not worry them, not inconvenience them. Again, this makes me furious. My fury does no one any good, fixes nothing, is no comfort to me. I should be writing, but...

I will now try to read myself into a nap, with the phone at my side.

themom said...

That is a friendship with no limitations. Stay with her and do what you must. You are a super friend - you are doing the right thing.

sunshine said...

Oh my gosh! I'm so very sorry! I can't imagine how I would feel if this were my best friend. The possibility of living without her seems unimaginable.
I'll keep her (and you) in my prayers and hope that it is treatable.
You're a great friend. We're here if you need to vent.
((Bighugs))
Laura

an average patriot said...

I am so sorry Utah, I will pray for her. I wish I could come mow the lawn and talk to the kids. Chin up kiddo don't give up!

D.K. Raed said...

I'm so sorry. You are there for your friend, even if you can't change anything, just being there is important. Your anger is understandable, too. You feel powerless but you are not. Your one-of-a-kind friendship contains great power.

Sharing Z's story is important also. It reminds us all that we should not overlook symptoms.

I will hope the biopsy says it's treatable and that Z will allow treatment.

darkblack said...

What awful news for her, and for those close to her like yourself, Utah.
Make the most of the time available...Good moments are eternal treasures.

Neither Here Nor There said...

Stay strong for both you and her. You know everyone is sending best wishes to you both. We'll be here to listen when you need us to be.

Suzi Riot said...

Sending you and your friend very healthy wishes. You're a good friend - stay strong. :)

Thorne said...

Shit. That fucking sucks. Hang on.

susan said...

This is sad news and leaves me without anything to say other than I'll be remembering you both in my thoughts and prayers.

Fran said...

These crossroads test everything you have in such a close friendship. I have a *for life* friend who has that same dynamic.... we get together & can talk all night about everything, anything. No bullshit.... we can say what we think & feel, no holds barred- and that in & of itself is so healthy & good for the soul.

These big time decisions are something that person can only decide, and you support.
My FIL- age 82 decided he would go through chemo & radiation.... the first few treatments were relatively easy, the last few damned near killed him.

In the end, he is now in remission & working on regaining his strength.
It was his choice, and he is on the mend.

Be there for each other & you have to remember, one day at a time.

Sending good thoughts your way.....

thelass said...

Oh, I am sorry to read this and to have read the diagnosis. Big hugs to you, lady.