Dear Joanne and Mike –
We used to be so close, remember? I used to drag in all the time, back in the long year of 1995-96, cracking bad jokes so it wouldn’t be obvious how terrified I was. Remember the time I criticized your information sheet, Joanne, since it listed line-dancing as a hobby? Aside from the questionable aesthetics of line-dancing, I recall telling you, I didn’t want an oncologist who had hobbies. I wanted someone who spent every minute of her day coming up with a cure for cancer.
Yeah, I must have been a real riot as a cancer patient.
But 15 years have passed since then. Owing to a combination of your good medical care, my good fortune to have medical insurance, and just plain, unvarnished good luck, I’m still alive. I wanted to write you both with a list of what I’ve been able to do in the past 15 years — the Good, the Bad and the Priceless.
Writing two young-adult novels, one “adult” novel, reams of newspaper columns, magazine pieces and radio commentaries.
Traveling from Albania to Tokyo to the Prada Art Installation in Far West Texas.
Starting a bonfire in our side yard to welcome the new Millennium. Having our neighbor call the fire department on us; having the fire department think it was funny.
Visiting Northern Ireland, which is now peaceful — and one of the few success stories about reconciliation in recent years. Who would have thought we’d live long enough to stroll around tranquil streets in Belfast?
Listening to the Irish talk — even the directions they give you are poetic.
Seeing the University of Texas win a national championship in football. (By the way, the Heisman should be given to Vince Young immediately.)
Watching Obama get elected, and singing and dancing with friends in the middle of our living room to celebrate.
Suffering through eight years of the Bush administration.
Wondering whether social security is going to hold out.
Developing “sensitive” teeth. Who knew this would be part of aging?
Feeling like I’m flunking the modern world since I can’t multitask worth a damn.
Seeing Venice for the first time with my husband.
Living in New York City for a year.
Watching both our kids graduate from middle school, high school and college. Seeing one earn a master’s degree. Having them both — hallelujah! — become self-supporting.
Becoming friends with my grown children.
Meeting other cancer survivors, many of whom became close friends. Too many haven’t survived — and I often feel I’m trying to age as well as possible for all of us.
I’m sure there’s much more to add, things I’ve forgotten or have come to take for granted. But I wanted to remind myself how lucky I’ve been and to thank you for what you’ve done for me. You always treated me as a person — and not as a number or a case. Best wishes to you both, Ruth
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite posts about reminding myself not to forget