“Four months? He’s not going to make it that long.”
My colleague has walked into my office to say this about a shared patient who has an abdomen riddled with cancer, and a brain that has cruelly decided to rob him of his mobility. I see this patient for his Parkinson’s, with regular follow up appointments every four months or so, but he has bigger fish to fry right now.
He’s right. He probably won’t make it that long.
“Don’t buy green bananas. You’ve heard that saying?”
No, to be honest, I have not.
“Well, its meaning is obvious. And you know N? She shouldn’t either.”
N is an office assistant. Was. She passed the other night. Her abdomen was also riddled with cancer, just of a different sort.
I missed seeing her. I meant to, but then she got rushed to the city for a procedure. Then I got sick and didn’t want to give it to her, and then I messaged her husband but by then, she wasn’t receiving guests who weren’t family, and then, just like that, she was gone.
When she was well, she had this incredible head of dark brown hair, poker straight, shiny, and down to her waist. It was straight out of a shampoo commercial. She loved to bake, and jam-filled cupcakes were a specialty.
When she was suddenly unwell, her cupcake taster’s cheek began to hollow out, and her lustrous mane disappeared, replaced by a cozy hat, and tiny, fuzzy baby hairs dotting a very wan-looking skull. If skulls can be wan.
In both instances, her smile still glowed, and she still took the time to say hello when she came into the office to get some work done; feel like herself for a little while. Once, during her chemo, she felt pretty good and brought in a batch of her signature cupcakes.
“Yeah! She’s back!”, everyone thought. We all thought her treatments were working. That she was on the mend and would triumph in this battle. That we would one day be celebrating at the office Christmas party with her again.
But no. It was growing stealthily, seeding healthy tissue and preparing for the eventual havoc-wreaking that growing balls of cells will cause when they block tubes and invade finely tuned bodily machinery. Our systems are so delicate and carefully orchestrated, so resilient until suddenly they are not.
Can you imagine, being suddenly surprised by a bowel obstruction when you thought you were getting better? Can you imagine that heavy, sinking feeling that must come with knowing that you will die, and that it will be soon? She deteriorated suddenly about two weeks ago and now she’s not here.
“She could have bought green bananas”, I think defiantly, but the point is moot.
She wouldn’t have been able to eat them.
Instead, I allow myself to wallow for a while in selfish things.
A float plane drop for a bike trip was booked today, but by sheer and random horror, the plane we were supposed to take crashed earlier this week, with five mountain bikers one or two degrees of separation from me on board. Everyone lived and none will be permanently disabled.
I didn’t go to my bike park lesson the other night, choosing instead to take my kids to the lake to watch dusk come, whilst sitting in a kayak with an ice cream cone in hand.
I had two ride plans curtailed last minute by injury and life appointments, and I missed another because of work.
My nine year old baby girl stood in front of me in a tie dyed shirt tied up as a crop top showing her belly last night, with experimental eye shadow on her eyelids and bracelets on each forearm reaching nearly her elbows, and I felt simultaneously afraid of what is to come and so wistful and heartbroken for what has already passed.
Time is a mean and relentless thief, and today, it feels like it has duped me especially.
My bananas sit, forgotten, brown, and pungent on my kitchen counter. I suppose I ought to count myself lucky.