Saturday, October 07, 2006

Reality Check

*ring ring*

"I'm stuck in fucking traffic...some fucker's gone and had a fucking accident and I don't think I'll be able to make it for lunch...bastard!"
"I'm sure they didn't do it on purpose, don't worry about it, we can catch up again next time you're down"
"Yeah but fuck...this is very fucking annoying and I..."
"Steve! Stop winding yourself up, just wait it out...it won't take forever you know."

My mate Steve lives almost 3 hours drive away from me. We don't get to see each other often but catch up with the occasional phone call. Let me tell you very briefly how I met Steve. I ran into him on one of those late night chat phone lines. I wrote about this some time ago...so I'm not going into the details of that now, nor justifying what the hell I was doing ringing one of those things in the first place. It is what it is (or more importantly, was). I can't possibly regret that chapter of my life, I made two very firm friends from talking well into the night on that thing, and as some of you know, I met a wonderful lady who later gave me the honour of being godmother to her youngest son.

Anyway, back to Steve. We started talking over the phone off and on, keeping each other company late at night....babbling about anything and everything, filling each other in on what was (or wasn't) happening in our lives...as time went on I put him on my list of good friends. I eventually met him in person almost two years after I started talking with him. When I got my current job of medical receptionist, we didn't actually talk about which suburb I was working in until several months later. It turned out Steve's much loved godmother had worked (and still did at the time) in the local pharmacy that we dealt with on a daily basis. I had already warmed to this lady well before I knew of my other 'connection' to her. She looked like a little china doll....porcelain skin, always impeccably groomed....always friendly with a ready smile for anyone. She's also one of our patients at the surgery.

Eventually I told her I knew her godson. She was fascinated by the coincidence and asked me a couple of times how I met him. I told her I met him through a mutual friend, and although that really wasn't entirely the truth, I justified it by thinking "well that chat line was there when I needed it, like a friend", no need for me to get too pedantic about the situation. The first thing Steve asked me when I told him she was enquiring was "What did you tell her??!" lol Slight panic stations all round but we thought it best to keep it at the mutual friend thing.

Over the years her and I have managed to keep track of Steve via each other. If she'd heard from him she'd say and vice versa. Although I did have a couple of slightly awkward conversations, with her "I worry about him sometimes, he's such a good man....he needs a good woman...he needs YOU Lisa". I always managed to laugh my way out of that by telling her "No he doesn't and besides I'm not that good." lol

In the past 18 months I have watched this delightful 63 year old lady deteriorate. Many years ago she contracted breast cancer....she fought it, had a mastectomy and went into remission for at least 6 years. While overseas in England, and after ending up in hospital because of back pain, it was discovered that cancer had struck again - this time it was in her spine. Despite chemotherapy, radiation therapy and anything else you can think of to kill those cells off, she's now riddled with it. Her husband (and what a fabulous man he is) has told me that he's so busy caring for her that he's been unable to ring friends and family to keep them up to date with her health. If they ring, then he'll let them know but it's not always possible for him to be ringing everyone especially when changes happen on a daily basis. He's also given me permission to discuss her progress with Steve, and after speaking with her doctor, I've done this from time to time.

Two weeks ago, I rang Steve to tell him that his godmother was coming out of the hospice...her husband had recently received a special bed for her at home and that, if he (Steve) was able to get down here, now would be a good time for him to come to Wellington. Steve obviously has to pick the right day to visit her. As many of you will know, cancer patients go through horrendous ups and downs with this debilitating disease, they have good/bad days and then REALLY bad days....it's not possible to forecast a day as being either good or bad. It's whatever way it is when the dawn strikes that morning.

Last Sunday the timing was right...she was having a good day and Steve made his way down to see her. They set a time of 1.30pm for after she'd had lunch and done all the medical bits and bobs that needed doing before he got there. He came here for lunch first and I opened the slider to hear "It was only fucking roadworks". I've never heard him swear so much in such a short space of time, but given the situation I could fully understand his frustration with the thought of not getting to the city faster. Lunch with me was besides the point...he could have lunch with me almost anytime, no sweat....but he has precious little time left to see her.

This gutsy lady has fought against her illness and fought hard...she still refuses to give up and let it take her. With all the different procedures that are known to help, and some that aren't so widely known, she's completely run herself through the mill and is still managing to come out the other side with a strength and attitude that is not always seen in these circumstances. Her husband has walked alongside her every step of this gruelling journey and is doing his utmost to make her as comfortable and happy as possible. I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for them both.

Steve rang me as he was driving back up north to say she really was having a good day, she was in fine spirits and so happy to see him he felt like weeping. From the information the doctor has given me, I daresay it won't be long before we'll be standing side by side doing that together. Life can be so utterly unfair at times....we can bitch and moan about what's happening or not happening in our lives, and then get knocked sober by the struggle that others go through with theirs.

It can certainly put things into perspective and gives us a wider view of reality don't you think?
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