I knew that my elderly neighbour had been in hospital, but I kept neglecting to sort out a visit. For two solid weeks at various points, we all had a stomach virus and I really didn't want to pass anything along. I finally saw my neighbour's husband today and I asked how she was doing. "She has bowel cancer", he said. "She has a long recovery ahead of her."
It was a complete shock to everyone; she went in with stomach complaints and was diagnosed with a twisted bowel. Upon further investigation, they found the cancer. Just like that.
The husband was a stocky man with a booming voice, shouting greetings at me from his driveway (mostly because he's hard of hearing). Today he looked so old, so tired, so small. He looked like he hadn't slept well in a while and had a fretful, confused look in his eyes. When he told me the news, I didn't know what to say except that I was so very sorry and that he could call on us to help however we could. I wanted to ask what the prognosis was, but didn't feel like it was the right thing to say.
My neighbour treats my kids like they're her own grandkids (of which she has several). We speak regularly over the fence; she fills me in on her family and she fills them in on us. I've only met her daughter a couple of times, but she greets me like an old friend and knows everything about my children.
My neighbour was one of the first people to learn that I'd miscarried and held me tight while I sobbed in her arms. She whispered in my ear that she went through the same thing. She looked after Jack while I was in hospital without a second thought. I will always, always remember this and hold it dear in my heart.
I will take over some food and repeat my offer of help, but really, what else can I do?
Fuck cancer. Fuck it.