Co-operation central to being human

Co-operation, science has now shown, is at our very core as human beings. Not all the time of course, and not all of us—some are tramplers and climbers more often than they are team players—but still, it’s there. I had my own little personal taste of it this week.

A new-to-me friend recently suggested that I might enjoy a visit with a friend of hers, and put us in touch via Facebook. We met at Starbucks today. Thanks to Facebook we don’t need to wear carnations or any such thing; I recognize her immediately, and we jump right in, swapping cancer experiences.

Hers is different from mine, but even with the differences, the same in so many ways. When she was diagnosed, she went almost overnight from the word cancer hardly being part of her vocabulary, to being told she was stage four, and that it would take her life. Not that it might, that it would, definitely. Nine sites, sites that included lymph and bone. No chemo or radiation at all at this point, maybe as a palliative measure down the road, they tell her. I want to smack the people who told her this, literally, and the way they’ve done it.

No matter what stage we’re at, there should always be room for hope, at least a little.

She goes for a couple of surgeries—she’s not ready to give up as quickly as they are—and then, against the advice of the experts and naysayers, and since they have nothing else to offer at this point, she takes things into her own hands. She sends her records to a doctor using DCA (dichloroacetic acid) with cancer patients. It is as yet still largely untested and, here in Alberta at least, highly controversial for this application. She has little to lose though, and jumps in with both feet.

Her doctors tell her it will kill her, which is odd since they’ve just told her that her cancer will kill her. Whatever. Her cancer is now down to two sites from nine, and she looks great. Really great.

Though this is our first meeting and it is one in the afternoon and we have had nothing but coffee to drink, we share the most intimate of details, and feel understood.  She understands the risks of repressing emotion, and of not repressing it. She understands the words post traumatic stress, and the metallic taste that can come with every follow-up visit to the Cross. She’s told her fiancée that this is not what he signed up for, and that he’s free to leave if he wants, and I understand this completely. I talk about feeling insecure and like a burden in the same breath, and she understands this too.

We move from cancer to our histories, our respective divorces, our families, friends. She’s a biker, I’m an artsy writer-wanna-be sort, but though we’re different we’re bonded now, and I’m thankful for this coffee visit, made possible by the co-operation and generosity of another.

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