Our next door neighbors are more than people inhabiting the space next to ours. They’ve been here for about fifteen years. The kids have grown up in front of our eyes, and we’ve been a part of their lives since before they can even remember. These people are friends, extended family.
Gloria, the mother of the woman next door, grandmother to the kids, is dying. She has advanced untreatable lung cancer. It’s metastasized throughout her body. She’s in home hospice, and soon she’ll be gone.
Gloria is only in her early 60s. She and her husband Henry (Enrique in Spanish — she’s the only one who calls him Ricky) have been together since junior high, and they were friends even earlier than that. At a recent family party I checked in with him: he told me that they haven’t had enough time together even after fifty years. Their love is sweet and tender, and the impending loss is heartbreaking. In fact, it’s so deep that it wouldn’t surprise me to see Henry die of a broken heart soon after Gloria’s passing.
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I got several requests on Facebook today. The message was to post a heart as a status update. No explanation — just a heart. The idea is that this is a simple, silent sign of support for women with breast cancer.
I can’t do it.
It seems to me that there’s a sort of hierarchy of cancers. Breast cancer. Sure, we can run, walk, wear pink ribbons and all that good stuff. We can urge women to get mammograms. And I’ve done all of that and will continue to do so. Heck, even my golf bag has a pink ribbon on it.
But hmmm… I had colorectal cancer. I’m a statistical miracle. By the numbers I should be dead, but I’m a ten-year survivor. But I have yet to see an event like a Revlon colorectal cancer event. Same for prostate cancer. And lung cancer? Even after non-smoking Dana Reeve’s death, there’s a real tendency to blame those with lung cancer for their disease.
So… even though my heart goes out for those with breast cancer, my heart is with them, don’t expect to see a ❤ as my Facebook status.
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