Everyone has neighbors. Not everyone gets along with the people that are two or three houses away from them. In fact, some people do everything they can to avoid contact with the people that share their street. Growing up, this was not the case for me. My parents are still very, very best friends with the two families that lived down the street from us for over 20 years. Each of the two families had children near or around my siblings and my age, and we would play outside, inside, down the street, at the park, in the pool and anywhere else our parents would allow us to.
Naturally, my Mom couldn't always be watching us, so the other families' Mom's became authority figures for us as well. Jan, one of the mothers of my neighbor friends, became almost a second mother to me. My brother, sister and I spent so much time at her house eating her cheese and crackers, playing her sons' Nintendo and hiding under her stairs during tornadoes, that she truly became family to us. We listened when she said yes, we ignored her when she said no, and most importantly we respected her when she said, "you've been here all day, go home to your own house so I can get some peace."
Just under a year ago, Jan was diagnosed with leukemia. I would give you all the pertinent information about what kind and how it worked, but I am unfortunately cancer-knowledge retarded. Though I've been somewhat immersed in the verbiage for going on 11 months, I still don't understand...anything.
During Jan's time in the hospital, I would receive up-dates from my Mom. Words like platelets, chemo, bone marrow, and hemoglobin were always used, but the words were like a gigantic mathematical puzzle. I knew they meant something, but it never came together in my head. All I could do was offer my support and understanding, and I probably didn't even do that very well. And I all I know now is, cancer is a roller coaster. Some days are good, some days are very bad, and some days just plain occur whether you want them to or not. And all I could do the entire time was pray and hope.
On Saturday, my parents and the other neighbor family I mentioned earlier had an opportunity to play cards (one of their favorite pastimes) with Jan and her husband for the first time in way too long. Though she got very tired very quickly, I'm sure it was still a wonderful way to welcome her home and back to normalcy. Unfortunately, Jan suffered a stroke not more than two days later, and she lost her battle yesterday in the afternoon.
Now I am left with mixed feelings and a lot of questions. Why did cancer choose this person? Is there some sort of evil cancer cupid that shoots random arrows at people? There doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason to any of it.
I meant this to be a short story, but you know me - I can't tell one of those. I feel horrible for my friends that have lost their Mom entirely too early. I feel awful for Jan's husband who probably can't even think straight right now. I feel completely unable to help or offer any sort of advice at all. Many of you have lost loved ones to cancer. And I know you will tell me that eventually the hurt goes away...so I guess I'm just waiting.