The first person you call

May 17 8:10am

After climbing out of the trunk, I propped myself up behind the wheel of the car. It’s 8:10 am. Could that whole appointment have only been 10 tiny minutes? Surely something so life-altering should be at least an hour, right? Time certainly is relative. 

No plans to go to work obviously. Now I’ve got the day. What to do? 

As far as I could tell life as I knew it was over. It seemed reasonable to jump to the inexperienced assumption that I would be dying soon which meant it could turn into a busy day. There are things in life I had chosen not to do because I feared they’d hurt or land me in jail. Now seemed like a good time to knock some of those things out, things like heroin and ignoring traffic signals that shouldn’t fucking be there in the first place. 

My perceived new shortened timeline made just about any obstacle or adventure possible because laws and social norms are applied only to those with futures. I no longer played by those rules I guess. Rob a bank and head to Mexico?  Fugitive living didn’t sound terribly misguided in that moment if I’m honest. My possibilities were endless. Freedom at last! 

In my car in the parking lot of my doctor’s office after just 10 minutes of initial biopsy results, my usual grip on reality was rather slippery. Was I actually considering holding up a bank for heroin money? That’s how fast cancer can change a bitch. 

Naturally, law-abiding Midwesternism got the best of me as usual so instead I just went home. Trembling still, my lizard brain took control and called Cindy. I don’t remember contemplating this much. Usually my Mom is the first to get any notable news. And all non-notable news for that matter. She actually doesn’t answer the phone much anymore. Strange. 

Why Cindy? Apparently my subconscious brain quickly cataloged my people, looking for the toughest, most non-reactive, capable-as-fuck person I know. (Sorry, Mom. My brain made this selection, not me.) I didn’t have the experience or the wherewithal to know what I was pulling her into. I was given a cancer diagnosis and two phone numbers to call. That’s it. I was having trouble with motor coordination so I figured Cindy could at least help me dial the phone. And if that didn’t work out, she might be open to being an accessory in my bank heist. She’s that sort of lady. 

Ask yourself this question…if you needed someone to drop everything, no matter what, and come to your side with no details or notice at 8:30am on a Tuesday, do you have that person? If not, work on that shit. Never have I been more grateful to have already cultivated meaningful and committed friendships. I knew deep friendships, especially those I had with women, were incredibly valuable but even so, I couldn’t have guessed just how much until then. I had never needed anyone like that before. She was there, no questions asked. She was simply there already. You can get through life without people like that but I sure as hell don’t want to. Cindy is a motherfucking gift to the Universe. 

Her very presence gave me the calm strength to dial the numbers and negotiate an oncology appointment for the very next day and second opinion for the following week. I dialed BOTH phone numbers I was given! On my own! I even used nearly complete sentences and an almost audible voice! Cindy’s strength-by-osmosis is infallible! She agreed to come to the appointments with me since it was predicted her magical powers only worked if we were in the same room. 

Little did she know, the shitstorm she’d be picked up into the following day was severe and exhausting. But on that day we were both blissfully unaware of how awful things would get. Instead, we got drunk and made up stories about which bank probably had the most diamonds and which tiny border town in Mexico would have the best tequila. We joked about my untimely death and who would take care of my dog and laughed, a little maniacally, at this most unexpected, disorienting, no good, terrible news.

The best piece of advice ever:  Get yourself a friend who can laugh (and perhaps more importantly, make you laugh) about a cancer diagnosis.

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