She is determined to live but is not taking any chances. In fact, she wrote and illustrated a children's book for her as-yet-unborn grandchild just in case she didn't live long enough to meet him. Her grandson is now 7 months old. The new grandma is working on the sequel.
She and I share a love of writing. She is the one who encouraged me to start teaching writing again. I am recently divorced after 20 years of marriage and four children. Devastated by the breakup of my family followed by my battle with breast cancer, I wasn't sure I could ever do anything again. My friend was sure I could.
I have not known any of these women very long, but cancer fosters an instant intimacy. I love my friends. When we make dates, I usually say something like "Don't try getting out of this by dying on me." When I go on vacation, I tell them they had better be here when I get back. We laugh. It helps. But the truth is, they might not be here when I come home.
I have been cancer-free for four years now. I have not always been grateful for that fact. Treatment was tough, and years later the side effects still dog me. Worse, though, is the fact that I have lost so very many loved ones to this terrible disease. Being a survivor is hard sometimes. I'm always glad when October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is long gone and the world around me is no longer awash in pink.
LaVerde teaches writing for Inova Cancer Services' Living With Cancer program.