Today, when my friend told me she has breast cancer, I chuckled and said, “What do you mean?” I might have even been smiling.
“I mean, there’s a lump in my breast and the lump has cancer,” she repeated.
Then I got it.
I searched her face for distress and all I saw were her rosy cheeks, those same cheeks always flush with life.
“It’s weird. It’s up high, here, in a strange spot.”
I asked with my eyes, and then in a slow act of friendship, reached my hand toward her breast.
“There,” she said. “Right there.”
I felt around. Small, but yes. There, right there. Hard as stone.
I withdrew my hand.
After we finished our wine, we walked to a friend’s house near campus for a cookout. Mother, father, and two kids filled the kitchen. Together we rinsed the bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and yellow squash. My friend made coleslaw and instructed me on how much pepper, garlic salt, onion salt, and cayenne to put on the beef. Then we started stabbing everything onto kabobs, refilling our wine glasses and moving out onto the porch. I watched her move, as I always do, and everything was crystal. Saline. Perfect.
This is my friend whose name means life. My friend whose very presence each year, as she comes back to the craft school for another visit, fills my heart with fresh energy and new ideas. She is also my friend who will make a choice to live and will do it.
When I got home, I did the only thing a woman does whose friend has breast cancer. I took a shower, raised an arm, and felt for lumps.