April 27, 2008
On Monday my colleague and friend Kathleen told me she hadn't been feeling well over the weekend, some kind of stomach thing. On Tuesday, she still didn't feel great, but friends had told her of others who had been dealing with a similar lingering bug. On Wednesday, she saw a doctor who did some tests, and everything seemed fine. On Thursday, she felt lousy and stayed home. By Thursday night she was hospitalized with acute lymphoma. From nowhere.
Kathleen and I have been colleagues for 27 years. She has been a trusted and close friend from the beginning. Our friendship is strong. Her contribution to our organization has been invaluable. She hasn't been as fortunate as I with her family life, but she loves her garden, she loves challenging projects; she reads biographies. She has a generous spirit and a good life.
So imagine how surprised I was when she told me that this cancer diagnosis was alright with her. She is a bit of a fatalist, and since there is nothing she can do about this event, which most would find catastrophic, she accepts it. She is in a top-ranked hospital with excellent physicians, and she feels safe and cared for-- in a way, safer and more cared for than she did in her daily life. She says that she is now different than the rest of us and in a separate "zone."
Her future includes a hospital stay of uncertain-length, including aggressive chemotherapy. And who knows what after that? But nothing is expected of her right now, all pressure is off. Her friends and colleagues are hovering with offers of help and declarations of love.
We're worried. Kathleen is not.