I found out that a good friend died yesterday.
I only met her last year, but we had an instant connection. We both liked growing things, and making things. We both had fractured families and loved books. One of the other things that helped cement our friendship was discovering that we had both had breast cancer.
She was funny, kind, wise, interesting, beautiful and about ten years older than me.
Yesterday she died from breast cancer that had come back and spread to her liver and bones before it was noticed.
I was expecting to have more time with her, to be able to at least say goodbye, but the cancer was growing too fast... and yesterday we ran out of time.
Her name was Nanda.
She wasn't afraid, or even particularly concerned. She was ready to die, but I wasn't ready. I still have lots of things I want to talk with her about, and I'm sad that the relationships she was beginning to form with my kids have come to an abrupt end. I want to hear about the corners of her life that we hadn't had time to talk about yet.
I'm sad about Nanda, and I'm scared for me.
See, here's the thing about cancer. Once you've had it, your chances of it coming back are increased. Mostly I ignore that uncomfortable fact, and pretend that I'm just as invincible as I used to be, and that my plans of living to 93 are perfectly reasonable... but then something like this happens, and I am reminded that while my chances are good, the reality is that this could happen to me just as easily as it happened to Nanda.
Even after the cancer is gone, the shadow of it lingers. I'm very aware of things that might be suspicious (or not), I'm much more aware of my energy levels (does the fact that I've been feeling really tired for the last week or two mean anything bad?), and I am VERY aware that time is not guaranteed to anyone, including me.
I'm not overwhelmed with fear on a daily basis, but it often niggles away at the back of my mind. Because I know that like my lovely Nanda, what seems like back pain that should be fixed by a visit to an osteopath, could actually be cancer destroying my life, one cell at a time.
But. Here is what I know for sure. Regardless of cancer, hurricanes, car accidents or winning the lottery, love and kindness are ALWAYS the best choice. I can't chose whether I get cancer or not, or what path a hurricane will take. Turns out there's an awful lot I have no control over! What I can control is my reaction to the events I'm presented with each day, and I want to be responsible for adding love to the world, not hurt.
I chose love.