II. Hear my battle cry
I said it before and I will say it again, you only get one chance to respond to the words “You have cancer”. With the help of some classy friends, I chose “Fuck cancer”.
The same notion holds true for my friends. I consider myself the lucky one. At least I had an inkling of awareness of what was about to happen when I walked into my doctor’s office weighing 5 pounds less even after my recent excursion to Croatia where I shamelessly and endlessly stuffed my face with gelato, burek and whole pizzas. My poor friends had no clue that I was calling to throw around the C word. They only got one shot to respond to that infamous combination of words, I have cancer. The responses ranged from gut wrenching silence to grandiose over the top gestures. I think we all know which one I preferred, the gut wrenching silence, obviously.
I can’t help but to believe that human nature is inherently good to its very core. Long lost friends suddenly emerged from the ether, and I couldn’t be happier. Strangers sent me cards and like the definition of that noun, they were strange but oddly reassuring. Friends that I never dreamed of speaking with again sent me bouquets of chocolate covered strawberries, which in turn triggered the ever so awkward re-friending on Facebook. I’ve missed them dearly. I am not above using the cancer card to reconnect and grow my friends, mostly because I am brazenly on the radical end of the extrovert scale. The more the merrier in my book.
Then there is the response of your nearest and dearest friends, the ones you carry around in your heart to the ends of the earth and back again. I am talking about the ones who have been through hell and back with you and somehow stick around despite all the risk involved. Against all odds we’ve made it through the comas, head staples, arm breaks, truck flips and quad crashes. Their response is always the loudest which induces the most shocking stop-you-in-your-footsteps, don’t-know-whether-to-laugh-or-cry reaction. These friends, who recently finished gutting and remodeling their entire home, sacrificed a newly minted room to the fight. Six of the best gathered to paint my little battle cry loudly and boldly on their pristine wall. They grabbed a bucket of neon green paint, which is the ribbon color symbolizing lymphoma, and splashed a huge Fuck Cancer across the wall. The series of pictures that they sent me documenting their act of support not only revealed the true definition of friendship but also the happiness that can be found in the most desperate of times. I could see, through pictures of each friend taking turns painting every last letter of my cry, right down to their core illuminating the good in each of them. Fuck cancer.
Then there is the response of my politicos, these ones are the toughest of the tough because Washington hardens people beyond imagination. I am talking about the ones that spend wee hours of the night with me debating politics and continuously forcing me to play jeopardy against my will. I latched onto these tough cookies for my strength to pull me through my very own personal hell on earth. They picked me up in their bullish mustang and whipped me down to the wig store to find a so-called suitable replacement for my beautiful long blonde hair. It must have been our political nature that landed us at the same wig store that Mrs. Clinton chose to grab some extensions for Bill’s 1993 inaugural ball. If Hilldog can do it, so can I. I was secretly hoping that as a baldy I’d resemble a V for Vendetta racy Natalie Portman. Unfortunately, when they pulled that brown hair net over my gorgeous locks, I looked like a distraught Britney Spears on her worst day. That’s where I lost all strength and sheepishly let the world see the pain. Embarrassed tears rolled forever. I’m glad that I brought those tough women. Without blinking, they immediately shot back and each purchased a candy-colored, eye-grabbing, show-stopping wig. If you saw a group of outrageously wild women, strutting down the cobbles of old town Alexandria in the hottest pinks, reds, blues and purples screaming back at the honks and calls of randy men, you only caught one glimpse of the many adventures to come with my tough cookie Washingtonians.
It must be said that I apologize to those friends who found out via text or Facebook. It’s not you, it’s me. No, really. Most people responded with humor to my I have cancer call, like my Uncle who shot back with, “Man I really wish you told me that you were pregnant.” Those were great, I relish in your humor. It was the gut wrenching prolonged silence response that kept me from continuously picking up the phone to inform friends. More specifically, it was Grandpa’s response. Two years ago, I left Grandpa for Ireland to chase after my dreams and MBA. A month before I embarked on my most grand adventure to date, he was diagnosed with Lymphoma. It took everything in me to leave my most favorite person in his time of great need. In Ireland, I called Grandpa without fail every week and he ended every call with “you girls are the highlight of my life, I am proud of you”. Grandpa had a grueling and ugly battle losing most of his weight. He didn’t even want to eat his beloved tasty cakes on most days. With the typical Maurer will power and stubbornness, he pulled through and went into remission early last year. I knew this call would end the rest of my cancer calls. Every inch of my being hurt trying to find a way to tell my recently in remission Grandpa that we had one more thing in common. I let him babble on for what seemed forever about baseball, my job and his trimming and upkeep of the infamous 50+ bushes that he planted on his huge property. He finally got around to asking me how I was doing. You know what’s next. After I blurted out the line, we sat in silence. Backbreaking, wish you could crawl in a hole like a hobbit silence. When I eventually mustered up the strength to finally speak again, he silenced me by saying “I have not comprehended this yet and I am going to lose it after this call” and that is how our conversation ended. Unlike those high school break-ups, it really is me and not you and I don’t wish to relive that line another moment. Friends, I am truly sorry about the medium of my message. It was purely selfish on my part.
That being said, I welcome humor. In fact, it is highly encouraged. Please give me your best shot at your most outlandish jokes and the worst that can happen is that they are as bad as my doctor’s. If you could look into my core, you would find crude jokes. I am sure of it. I’ve been told once that my jokes are a cover up for my insecurities. I whole-heartedly assure you it’s not. Life without constant laughter would be my own little hell on earth.
This is where my pirate boat cancer party on the Potomac to fight cancer comes in. An interesting but smelly cat, who probably believes he is a pirate at his core, selflessly helped me to arrange a benefit on the Potomac to raise money for Lymphoma. It would help me feel better about my ridiculous new bald look, if ya’ll looked ridiculous too. I am begging you all to come dressed as your best pirate to off-set my bad Britney look. It is next Friday, July 26 at 7:30P. We cast off from Georgetown Waterfront at 3100 K St. Washington, D.C., NW, 20007. There is a dance floor and bar to ensure splendid drinking into the sunset with our drink of choice, The Chemo Cocktail, so strong it will make your hair fall out. I rented the entire boat. All you need is your best pirate face, bad jokes and lymphoma donations.
Since I am terrible at endings, I will always leave you with a proverb. “It is prosperity that gives us friends; it is adversity that proves them.” PS – I AM STAGE ONE!