The wife of my friend R has cancer. It started as colon cancer for which she had surgery to remove the tumour followed by radiation; and her doctors believed they removed all the cancer. Unfortunately, after a follow-up CT scan they found a new cancerous tumour in her liver. They surgically removed that tumour along with a significant piece of her liver and again treated her with radiation. About two months ago, they found another tumour on her liver. She started radiation treatments for the new tumour a few weeks ago, trying to shrink it, but her oncologists now believe she needs another surgery to remove this tumour too. The looming question is whether there is enough of her liver left from the previous surgery to cut any more of it out.
My friend R is losing sleep over this every night, but he’s trying not to let his wife see it. He’s worried about his wife and her prognosis, but can’t let her know how worried he truly is. In their marriage, he is always the level-headed, strong, practical, rational thinking being. He’s the one that gets things done and takes care of everyone. He manages the household finances, figuring out when they can splurge and when belts need tightening; and he works at pulling his introverted wife out of her shell by trying to include her in his various circles of friendship, taking her on trips to far off places, and always putting her first.
Unfortunately, R’s wife has never warmed to me: even though he and I were friends, long before he ever met her. Her excuses for not liking me have ranged from I’m too young – they are about fifteen years older than me; I’m single – my past relationships have never changed her attitude, and I learned that only a marriage will suffice; and I’m too attractive, which as far as I’m concerned is about her lack of self-esteem. R has hosted dinner parties, where his wife has exchanged so few words with me it was obvious is efforts to spark a friendship between us, were for naught. So, our friendship – R’s and mine – exists away from his wife’s lack of fondness for me.
Even though she’s not fond of me, I’m worried about her. I’m worried that the recurrence of her cancer is a bad sign. According to R, one doctor is concerned that during the last surgery – when they removed the first tumour on her liver – they may have taken too much of one lobe of her liver to make sure that the tumour would not regrow. If that’s the case, they may have to rely heavily on radiation to shrink this tumour then follow up with another CT scan to see whether she needs more radiation or if they have to attempt to remove the remaining mass with surgery. For both their sakes, I’m desperately hoping the radiation works.
Recently, R told me that his wife has lost interest in all the hobbies and activities she used to do before she became ill. I’ve decided to send her a gift that I hope will lift her spirits. I know that she loves flowers: she wanted to open a flower shop when she retires from her current career. I can’t give her a flower shop, but I can give her some adult colouring books with drawings of flowers and gardens, and a set of coloured pencils. My hope is that the simple act of colouring will soothe her mind, distract her from thinking about her illness and pain, and, I hope, re-spark her interest in the things she used to love doing – as it has for me.
I can’t count all the ways over the course of our friendship R supported me through a tough time, or said or did something to lift my spirits. I want to support him and his wife in any way I can. I know that what I’m doing isn’t much, but when I told him about my plan, he was happy and grateful; and I hope it helps his wife, even if it’s just to put a smile on her face.
Cyndi Lauper – True Colors