Years ago, I met a woman that lived on the Eastside, in Bellevue actually that sold beautiful rugs. I asked her if she would be willing to trade massage for one. Quickly, she and I hit it off and we spent the next few years, every week, trading. I have a bazillion rugs now that are housed at various friends homes and are also strewn about my cabin.
She was a young mother of two teenage kids. Michelle was in her early forties. I met her just as she had finished Breast Cancer treatment, her hair was a delightful pixie cut, and she was in the process of getting implants. I learned a lot while I worked on her, all-the-while thinking OF COURSE, I would never be dealing with Cancer. That was about eight years ago now.
I admired that she loved to go out dancing, and rage at various local shows till the wee hours. I watched her fall in love with a man that loved her despite her being without breasts & during the process of getting breasts. I loved her spunk. She was a wonderful mother, her sense of “Napoleon Dynamite” humor with her kids, and… and…SHOOT! I totally thought she had Health in her future!!
Finally, I got my fill of rugs and ended our trades. I got married, and life went along the road of the living. Well…we all know how my story goes and that I entered her side of the Club I didn’t want to belong to.
The past couple of weeks, I have been driving past her neck of the woods for the first time in years and I thought, I should go by her house and say hello. I tossed that idea around for a few weeks, feeling it sink deep into the bottom of my belly. Feeling the undeniable, “I wonder if her cancer came back? I wonder if she is alive? I wonder if she is married to that nice man?” Well, this week I decided to take a left off the road I travel on, and make my way up to her house.
I got a little lost, I couldn’t remember exactly. When I was a little girl, my Mother taught me to get around and remember directions by landmarks…by trees and such. That helped guide me to her house as I saw a familiar Rhododendron and I took that right. As I pulled into her driveway I noticed a “Baby Girl” balloon outside the door. I thought, Jez…did she just have another baby?
I didn’t have to knock because a nice man opened the door and I introduced myself as I asked if Michelle was still here. He said he had bought the house a year and a half ago and that he was (I knew it was coming) sorry to be the one to give me the bad news, but that Michelle had not made it. I looked up into the stairwell and saw that his families photos had replaced Michelle’s families. I thanked him, and as I walked away, I said, “Looks like you have a lot of life to be celebrating in there. Enjoy.” I walked away with a newborns cry and a somber mood.
I drove away and cried, and spoke to her, and remembered her. The past few days I have been thinking about her and realized that I did much of the “coming back to life post treatment” that she had. I rarely missed a night of dancing in the city and had a summer of the most fun I have ever had as an adult. I partied (in a good way) like it was 1999!!! (I’m a Prince fan, what can I say)..
For some reason the length of her hair when I last got to work on her stuck with me. I’ve been mulling and processing in my head how sad I am that I never got to sit and have that cup of tea with her. I never got to shock the heck out of her and tell her I got sick too! I never got to ask her to go dancing with me! Why did she not make it? Where are her kids now? This is my next step is to track them down. The Seattle area is small, and I know enough people that once I start the “did you know”, to my friends I will find her kids or her parents.
Tears are pretty full this past week. If I slow down and just look, they come. This morning, as I was massaging I looked in the mirror and saw that my hair is now the longest its been since I was diagnosed in ’08. Its shoulder length now! Wow! I cocked my head from side to side, and watched it sway back and forth. I still enjoy my new treat of swirling my hair when I am in bad traffic. I never was a twirler before cancer, but it’s a sweet and fun way of connecting in with my ego, my girly side, and celebrating having hair.
I thought today, Wow! At each stage of length bald, fuzz, chemo curls with pixie, at ear length, and now at shoulder length I was healing in drastically different ways. One of the hardest parts of writing this particular book for me is processing all that I went through in one fell swoop. It takes me months to process from a full weeks worth of work and I then start to compile thoughts through that healing, and then go back to paper and write more. Hhhmmmm…Yes, I am still healing. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to do all this personal growth and am excited to some day share it.
People want to know when I will be done with the book? These folks are not writers, as the published writers in my life, all laugh when I talk to them about how I REALLY feel like answering this question. I have no idea when it will be done. It’s not just a fun book to write, you know. It’s a beautiful piece of artwork that is in the process of healing my heart as I birth it. It will take some time.
Well…Michelle, I am so sorry you didn’t make it babe. You were amazing. I am so very sorry and bummed I didn’t get to drink tea with you. Ugh. Belly cries and sadness.