I ran into my neighbor at the grocery store a few weekends ago. I haven't seen or talked to her in several weeks and had been meaning to call her and hassle her about the fact that surely, at the age of 70, she wasn't going back to work since I've noticed her car gone every morning by 7:30am. (She lives next door to me and my one kitchen window looks over her carport.)
I should have known something was up as soon as we made eye contact.
First off, her dog passed. Which is sad. Thor was such a good dog, old, but still. Good Dog. I thought that was the bad news.
Poor Joan. Her eyes were just wide and empty.
Remember, this is my neighbor who just had her kidney removed in June. 70 years old. We garden side by side over the fence. Every year for the past 11 years.
She's now undergoing radiation 5 days a week and chemo once a week.
For lung cancer.
This, after she quit smoking AND drinking 10 years ago for throat cancer. Which she did radiation and surgery then and beat it.
It breaks my heart. Devastating. Makes me cry when I think about it.
Angry. She's been through enough already.
The part that really bothers me is that she's not told many people, and that she drives herself to her treatments, by herself, 40 minutes each way, every stinkin day.
Does not want her husband to go with her.
So this morning, I ran into V, another older neighbor (who is a retired hospice nurse that recently went through breast cancer). V knows about it and confirmed that this was not a mild case.
We both agreed that one of us should go with her for the chemo treatments since that is a little long to be by yourself. We discussed doing it on a rotation basis, me this week, her next week.
But now, more than anything, I want to do something for her. Just her.
But I'm afraid. I keep tearing up just thinking about it. And that's the last thing I need to do as I know she does not want sympathy ... she only wants to see Christmas, her grandson, her daughter and all those other things in life that make her happy.
Oh my heart. It feels like someone is just tearing it out piece by piece.
So this past weekend, we got in her car (she insisted on driving) and drove to the nursery, picked up some tomato and pepper plants, and browsed around to look at the huge selection of outdoor plants. We had a very nice, leisure stroll, much longer than an average shopper would have taken.
We pay for the plants, take them home, and plant them, me on my side of the fence, and her on her side of the fence. And we laugh and talk about everything, but THAT.
We finally finish up and hold the hose for each other to wash our hands off. And finally, I tell her, I'm not at all happy that she's doing these trips by herself and that I would be more than happy to go with her for the 3 hour chemo trips if she'd like me to.
Said no. That she wants to do this while she still can. That she wants to remain independent as long as she can. And at this point we are both holding back our tears, because now, she's telling me that it's inoperable and final.
I get it now.
Which makes me all the more glad that I went ahead and did the gardening stuff then instead of waiting til next weekend.
She has her 84 year old brother coming in this week and he will go with for her treatments for the 7 days he is here. Then her daughter comes in for 5 days and she will take her. The Husband, Mr. Bill, will step in when needed after that.
Sometimes, you have to follow along when someone is trying to live life "normally". I think I get it now. I really do.
Say a prayer for my friend, I will be. And perhaps wish us luck with these tomato plants this year. This is the year that they should be everything and more, just for Joan.