A few weeks ago, one of my dearest friends, M, called me at work after being MIA on e-mail for longer than is usual. I picked up, and asked how she was. Instead of saying, "Fine," she asked if I had a moment to talk, so I knew right away something was up.
M has always been very health-conscious. She is fit, she exercises almost every day, she avoids anything even remotely suspected of being carcinogenic, she monitors her cholesterol intake, and she eats bean burritos with remarkable regularity (no pun intended). And she's only 42. So, how in the hell is it possible I was listening to her tell me she had a cancerous polyp in her colon?
I don't know if I found the news particularly shocking because I love M so much, or because I just assumed her healthy lifestyle rendered her impervious to serious illness. In any case, all I could think were such nonsensical things as "Why her? It isn't fair! How could this happen to her?" As though it would be more fair or comprehensible if it happened to -- I don't know -- my son's teacher? My aunt? The woman in front of me in the supermarket line?
So, there it was. It wasn't fair. It isn't fair when it happens to anyone, but M is close to me, so this time, I care. A lot.
M told me the next step would be surgery to remove the part of the colon with the polyp. The surgery is major: They have to cut her open. It's not something that can be done with a scope and a tiny incision. Plus, only after the surgery would they know the severity of the situation.
Fast forward a couple of weeks. M had her surgery last Thursday, and the procedure went well. Astonishingly, the good news came back only two days later: The surgery was completely successful, they were able to completely remove the polyp, and no cancer had spread beyond the part of the colon they removed. As of today, she is home, feeling much better, and hopped up on vicodin.
M said she feels almost like it didn't even happen. Like the pain and worry of the surgery is a small price to pay for the fantastic outcome. I danced when she told me. I've never been so relieved.
I know I will have to face my friends' mortality someday, but I can go back to believing that day is far away. At least for awhile.