She walked into my workroom full of life. She was ready to learn as much as she possibly could in one week. I had agreed to give a 40-hour block class from Monday to Friday because the student was eager to learn my trade -the simple craft of furniture restoration and upholstery. She had flattered me with her request. She came from out of state, an 8-hr drive. She stayed in a hotel nearby. How could I not be flattered? How could I possibly say NO to the money?
A beautiful woman walked into my workroom Monday in the morning, the second last week of July. Just a few years younger than I am, yet she made me feel so much older. She was dressed casually, with style and class. Everything matched, her shoes were trendy, and so was her wardrobe and the custom jewelry she wore -which I later found out, she designs, creates, and sells very successfully at trade shows, which gives her a bit of side income besides her normal job. “That’s how I just financed your class and the hotel,” she laughed and I smiled. She was creative, which made my job so much easier.
She had big plans and certainly the tenacity to make them all come true. I didn’t think eight hours of teaching could feel so long, and nor had I expected to feel drained and weak at the end of the first day.
Our first day had been full of explanation, lots of talking on my end and filled pages in her notebook on her end. Right before she had booked the class, I had told her about FRUITLOOPS and FRUITLOOPS DAY. I named my low-dose chemotherapy drug (Methotrexate) and the day I take it (Friday night) because something that ugly deserves a funny name.
I have decided to be open about it, there is nothing to be ashamed of. I do well with it and by now I am no longer scared. Life has given me the chance to meet people just like me, with the same or similar struggles, and come to find out, I am not special at all. Many are on the medication, a lady I met is on it for twelve years. Hope has taken over fear, but still, I am fairly new to FRUITLOOPS.
My student felt a bit sorry for me, which is a normal reaction, perhaps it’s the same response I always had in situations like that. What’s there to say when it comes to health concerns we haven’t lived through ourselves?
We had fun in class and shared a lot of our personal lives. Whenever a student’s face signals a brain overload, I quickly change the subject, distract them with private conversations, and give them the short pause they needed to re-charge.
Her life sounded a bit like a fairy tale. Great house, an older farm, horses, dogs, and cats. Single mom of a beautiful daughter. A boyfriend who -she was sure of it- would propose during their upcoming Europe vacation, to which they would leave just a few days after our class.
Jealousy is nothing I am familiar with, but occasionally I envy people and I hope that’s alright and a normal reaction. Some people appear to have it all and they seem to get it fairly easily. Life and luck seems to favor them, and opportunities knock at their doors frequently.
She made me laugh a lot, and she was very understanding on day three of our class when I asked for a shorter day. I hadn’t been feeling well that day, something that I have learned to accept. There are good days, there are a few bad days, and there are many great days. Wednesday was not a good one and she had no problem with it. “Just tell me the name of your best mall in town, and I will blame my shopping spree on you,” she laughed.
I got blamed a lot the next morning at 7 am when she showed up. I laughed, again not jealous but wouldn’t it be nice if I could just drop everything and go shopping for a day and not care? Maybe I could do the same, but care and worry too much and I should let loose sometimes.
“I have to see a doctor when we come back from vacation,” she revealed at the end of the week, “An MRI has shown a tiny spot on my liver,” she added, and I gave her my famous wrinkled-forehead look, which asks a question without asking.
“It could be liver cancer,” she shared, “but we are not worried. I don’t drink and I am not in pain, just a bit of a twitch now and then,” she added in her sweet Southern accent. Her boyfriend, a veterinarian, and other doctors she is friends with, all were very positive.
On the last day, she booked a few more days with me in November and I am looking forward to working with her again.
She left and went on vacation and I didn’t hear from her until the other day when I called.
“How are you? How was vacation? Did he propose?” I wanted all the juicy details.
“Not good,” she said and I listened. Yes, he did propose however the tiny spot, was now stage IV of a very aggressive cancer with a name I never heard of. Appointments and more appointments are already set up for second and third opinions, radiation of the new tumor that has already developed on her hip in such a short time will start next Monday. After that, more treatment plans, and a heavy dose of chemotherapy.
“I will have to fight for my life,” I heard her say. I didn’t know how to respond. So many thoughts run through my head. I had no words for the emotions I felt. I congratulated her on her engagement. How scared he must be. How frightened they both must be.
I thought of my FRUITLOOP DAY!
All of a sudden my own health struggles look so small and so unimportant and I realize with sadness that now I have the perfect life!
I am the woman with the fairytale life who has it all, who is admired by so many, who have less.