I met my friend, Maria, about five years ago, through my best friend, Maureen. Maria is Maureen's sister-in-law. They belong to a big Italian family and they've taken me in as their own. Maria is a fun-loving person and I've enjoyed her friendship as well as the many outings we've gone on.
Maria's health was never the best. Many years ago she lost a kidney to cancer, and some years after that, she lost a breast to cancer. About two years ago a large birthmark above her temple, in her hairline, started to change. She went to the doctor and it was removed because it was cancerous. She was treated and it seemed she was getting better. Not too much later she was told it had spread to her lymph nodes. She was put on a course of interferon. It made her very sick, but she stuck with it for over nine months. It was a trying time for Maria and her family. It appeared that she had lost the will to live. She kept on but I missed the old Maria.
Each time the doctors told her more bad news she proclaimed that this was the last; no more treatments. But eventually she would comply and a few months ago the doctors opened her up and removed lymph nodes going down the side of her face. It left a big scar, but she is still beautiful. She suffered mini-strokes, but she is a still beautiful person. She lost her hair, but she is still beautiful. Her hair grew back and she was happy. Hair is so important to women.
We went back to going out to dinner and to see the latest movies. She is a movie bug. Things Maureen didn't want to see, me and Maria saw. Things that were too violent or creepy, me and Maria saw. All the while, the cancer kept creeping back. Insidious. Her brother, Mike, Maureen's husband, brought Maria to her doctor appointments. Their sister-in-law is a renowned oncologist and consulted with Maria's oncologist about her treatments. Her two daughters helped as they could. Mike is retired so he has more time. Gina has a small son and works, as does her daughter, Elizabeth.
The other night I invited them to my house for dinner. Maria didn't come. I thought it odd because she loves my rice and beans, but Maureen said she had gone for some tests and was tired. I packed her up a plate and sent it home with Mike and Maureen. (They live in a two-family house.) I thought it odd that I didn't hear from her as I had whenever I sent her food, but pushed the bad thoughts out of my mind. Maybe she was still tired. Maybe she didn't get a chance to eat them yet….When I picked Maureen up today she said that Maria enjoyed the food. I was happy about that but told Maureen that I let my imagination run away with me thinking maybe Maria had gotten bad news. Maureen told me that the tests Maria took on Monday were actually a PET scan. "Oh", I said, and we talked a little about what the tests would reveal. Hopefully, nothing.
This afternoon Maureen came to my desk. She was upset. I asked her what was wrong and she said she didn't know. That worried me. Maureen is a worrier, but she keeps it to herself. So when she said she was worried, I knew that I should be worried, too. Elizabeth, Maria's eldest daughter, had called looking for her mother. When she couldn't locate Maria, she called Maureen. Maria had not told the girls of the latest tests, to spare them worry so Maureen just said she was sure Maria would show up soon, that maybe she was with Uncle Mike. But I didn't know any of this yet. We took a walk outside and she told me that she called her husband's cell phone and Maureen said that she knew by the tone of Mike's voice that something was not right. We talked about the possibly of the test not turning out with a good result, but I said that maybe she was just reading into things (because she is a worrier). But Maureen is very sensitive and picks up things intuitively about the people she cares about. We went back into work and finished out the day. Maureen said she would call me if anything was wrong.
After I dropped her off at home, I went to CVS to pick up my BP prescription. When I got home there was no reassuring message on my answering machine, so I waited for the call I didn't want to get and that Maureen didn't want to place.
Maureen called at about 6 PM. Andrew, Gina's husband, was bringing the girls over. Maria has to tell her daughters that there is no hope. They will be devastated. Mike and Maureen are devastated. I am devasted. Maria, I will pray every day for you. And your family. If I feel like I was hit with a ton of bricks, how could they possibly feel? I wish I could just drive over there and hug them all and make it better.
But I can't. So I'll just scream this silent scream that is in my head.