I was in a room somewhere, staring out at the Houston skyline, trying to think neutral thoughts for my last EKG done with the relaxation study people.
According to my husband, she plopped down in the chair next to his and asked, "Are you a patient here?" He was in the process of answering the woman when I came walking up. We introduced ourselves, the woman and I, she'd already introduced herself to my husband, and started telling our respective cancer stories. She'd had breast cancer around six years ago and now it was back, in her lungs and in her blood. Her right arm was completely bandaged due to complications with lymphedema. Her left arm was swollen almost to bursting, it seemed to me. She mentioned the word "metastisized. I don't consider that a good or hopeful word (though I could be wrong, having cancer three times doesn't actually make me an expert).
(Let me insert this right here: If you're smart, when someone says they have breast cancer and it was estrogen positive, as yours is, and it came back after the sixth year, you will remind yourself that her story is not your story. Same thing with colon cancer stories. Don't even bother to compare. Every single cancer story has its own differences, along with similarities. But just don't think that just because this or that happened to her or to him, it will also happen to you. Back to the original story now...)
We talked about a lot of things in a short time. She'd been a nurse. We talked about sleeping and how she couldn't get situated at night due to a couple of broken ribs on the left and not being able to sleep on the right because of the lymphedema. She told us about a place that might do laser surgery on carpal tunnel syndrome.
She lives in the area we lived in when we were living in Houston, very close to NASA and on the water. What a small world it is.
We got around to the subject of art when she asked me about the relaxation study and we talked about the things that helped us to relax. She flat out said it, "I'm an artist"! We talked about how art soothes and calms us. She excitedly told me about how they'd converted her garage into a studio for her. She was most thrilled about having a sink! But she also got a full bathroom, with a shower. I told her a garage studio was my secret dream.
I'd already talked too long. I had to get to my next appointment. She was so engaging. I could have talked longer. I could have walked down to the coffee shop with her and visited all afternoon. We would have had so much to talk about, I just know it.
How I regret that I did not have the courage to just ask her if she would like to exchange emails so maybe we could keep in touch.
Her name was Bess.