The restaurant is packed. I look around and quickly find Danielle at a back table and go in for a hug. “Hey, my favorite fighter! What’s up?,” she asks.
“Not much- just ran today, though. Boxing was yesterday.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about, girl! I’m talking about you kicking cancer’s ass!,” she replied with a big smile and another hug before we sit down.
“Oh, yeah… Thanks.” I glimpse down at the menu trying to come back around from my triggered internal meltdown, “so what’s good here?”
Danielle is a good friend and it makes what I feel even worse because I know she means well. I’m flat out done having this “fight” pressure put on cancer patients. It’s everywhere! Killing friendships, killing my view of society, killing my family, and killing my brain.
Danielle and I are sitting having coffee looking over the menu and instead of being grateful we’re together, I’m internally fuming about her “fight” comment, wondering if I should just blurt a kind question about her battle with diarrhea, “so how are things shooting these days? Is lactose still getting to you?” A smile creeps up my face as I eye the creamer. “How’s your husband? Was he able to perform last night? Did Viagra help him in his battle? C’mon, Joe! Get erect! You can do it! Win your battle! Now, Joe! The world is watching- get HARD, Joe-NOW!”
I try my best to hold back giggles. Thank God Danielle wasn’t looking. “I almost didn’t think I could make it today,” Danielle said as she buttered her bread. “Do you know Matt had to stay home from school three days for pink eye? His medicine didn’t work.”
“Oh my gosh, that’s horrible,” I said and truly meant it. Lingering pink eye is viewed as a medicinal failure, yet death from cancer is seen as a patient’s lost battle…
The waitress refills our coffee and I gratefully take advantage of the break in our conversation. Even though I resent the label I’m stuck wearing, I don’t wish it on other people or other illnesses. The familiar wave of guilt hits me. I take a fresh sip and attempt to refresh my attitude. Lahla, get over your issues, don’t be an asshole, and have a good time with a good friend who means well.
It’s not Danielle anyway. It’s fucking society and their definition. The wrong people are in the ring. Where are the doctors, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment manufacturers? Why am I the fighter and not them? I will die and it will most likely be from cancer, so now I get to LIVE my lost battle of a life. Thanks, society.
As my internal meltdown subsides, I take a deep breath and re-center. As I’m tasting the best coffee I’ve ever had and smiling at my good friend, Danielle, behind her enters a lady who almost stops my heart. She’s wearing a tee shirt with two huge, pink chest-height ribbons with the word, FIGHTER in between them. Great, here we go again!