Perhaps, then, I was less surprised than others when Shaun's mom and dad, Mary & David, called at the end of August to say that Mary had breast cancer. But less surprised does not equal less devastated. In the last ten years, Mary has become one of my very best friends. She makes me laugh, inspires me in all sorts of ways, and we can commiserate over what it's like to be married to a Ganyo.
(here's Grandpa David, making a leaf house for V this past weekend).
She had a mastectomy at the end of August, and her first chemo was 2 weeks ago tomorrow. Her next chemo is scheduled for Wednesday of this week. Her hair will start falling out, likely, in the next few days. But she will survive this round, and we are all so, so thankful for clear margins and good odds.
My grandfather died in 1979 of colon and prostate cancer, and since I was six, I have no real memory of him before cancer. He was already bald when I was born, and 78 when he died. But I remember my mother's heartache at his illness, and I remember being in the St. Ansgar's waiting room for hours at a time (back when children under 12 weren't allowed to visit patients). I would've been almost exactly V's age.
My parents didn't talk to us much, that I remember, about Grandpa's cancer. We knew that's what he had, and we heard words like chemo and restraints. But I don't remember direct conversations about what was going on. We're trying to do things differently with V. We want her to know that Grandma had a tumor in her breast, and that's why she had surgery to remove it. V knows that microscopic cancer cells were found in one lymph node, and that that's not as bad as we'd feared. She knows that chemotherapy is the medicine used to make sure the cancer goes away, to try to keep it from ever coming back.