Monday, April 18, 2011


After I hear the "C" word from Dr. S., there are two friends that I need to tell — the only two people besides my husband who are even aware I have had a biopsy. I reach both of their voice mails. Hmmm. I know P.  will call me back when she sees I didn't leave a message — she knows I'm on pins and needles waiting for "the news." But my gut tells me to leave K. a message, a light-hearted one. So I do. Then I sit down on the couch in the living room and wait. (I guess I don't want to get too comfortable by sitting in the den; after all, cancer is a very uncomfortable topic.)

I can't cry, though I try; I'm too terror-stricken. I just sit there, completely dazed and confused, and wait for the phone to ring. The hours tick by: first One. Then Two. Then Two-and-a-Half. For 2 1/2 hours I sit on the couch, waiting, as though by freezing myself I can alter the course my life is about to take.

The phone rings — once. It's my husband, not P or K. We talk about dinner and I hang up fast.

Then I call P. again. Still no answer. Why aren't they calling me back? Are they afraid to talk to me? Do they not know what to say? They couldn't have forgotten I had a biopsy, could they have? 

My mind is conjuring up all kinds of crazy scenarios. But I'll explode if I keep this news to myself much longer. So I lace up my sneakers, throw on a sweatshirt and do the only thing I know will clear my head: I take a hike. And I can't believe I have cancer.

I know I'll run into other hikers soon on this popular trail, but for now I am grateful to be alone. I walk up a series of steep inclines that take me to the top of a magnificent hill. The view is amazing... mountains and mountains for miles and miles. The warm breeze and late-afternoon sun feels so good against my skin. I stop and gaze into the distance, trying to etch the visual image into my brain. I can't believe I have cancer. 

Then I hear voices. Really. Loud ones. I turn to see three women yakkity-yakking as they climb the hill behind me. They are with a black and white dog. They say hiello, then continue down a trail I've never taken before. Oh, what the hell, I might as well see where they're headed. I'm in a risk-taking mood. After all, I have cancer. 

These are the actual hikers, on the actual day, that I actually learn I have cancer.
They're walking much faster than me, so I really have to pick up the pace, which breaks my concentration. This is good. I decide that if I catch up to them, I'll tell these three strangers my news: It's been three hours since I found out I have breast cancer, and guess what? You three are the first to know. 

I'm deep in this thought when I hear someone call out, "On your left!" Just a guy on a mountain bike. I let him pass me, and watch as he speeds down the long, narrow trail behind the women and the dog. They can't hear him coming because they are still yakkity-yakking, but thankfully he notices this. He makes a wide turn and passes on their left so he won't startle them or their dog. But something goes awry. Suddenly I see his bike fly up in the air; there's commotion, displaced dirt and plumes of dust. The women quickly form a huddle around him. Though I can't see much from this distance, I can tell he is bleeding.

I jog toward them and as I approach, I see the gash in his forehead. He keeps saying he is OK, although when he tries to stand up he's too dizzy to do so. One of the women gives him her water bottle. I hand him the wad of Kleenex I had stuffed in my pocket when I left the house, in case I started crying. (Who knew someone would need it before I did?)

Then we, the three ladies and I, decide we will walk this man back down the mountain. All hands are on deck: One gal walks the dog. One gal walks the bike. One gal calls 911 so an ambulance can meet us at the trailhead. (She then calls the man's wife so she can do the same.) I carry his backpack, which must be stuffed with bricks because it is so dang heavy. Our little caravan slowly makes its way down the trail. 

We walk, he talks. He tells us he bikes these trails regularly, several times a week in fact, but has never crashed before. (Well, except for that one time when he busted up his knee.) As we reach the bottom of the hill, we tell him it's not such a good idea to go biking alone, 'cause what if he wiped out and we hadn't been there? Blood and coyotes and rattlesnakes do not a happy hiker (or biker) make.

We round the final bend to find his wife and daughter rushing towards us. We also see an EMT truck waiting in the parking lot. We hand off his accoutrements to his anxious family and say goodbye. He thanks us profusely. The ladies and their dog turn around and head back up into the hills to finish their hike. I contemplate following them as I watch them disappear on the trail, but decide maybe it's best not to hike alone twice in one day. 

Then I realize I never did tell them my news. Hiking is strange that way. I have cancer and have already forgotten that I do. This is good.

(See Telling Hubby to continue with my story.)

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