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.