Monday, August 22, 2011

Lattes and Cancer


The first time I ever had a coffee---the type with all the chocolate, cream and yummy yummy sinfulness---was in 1997. I was taking Physics II at a ridiculous hour, like 4:00-5:15 Tuesdays and Thursdays. I hated that class, hated that the teacher was not a teacher but more of a paid babysitter who used his paycheck to funnel his wickedly clever ideas. I was rolling into the Science building and my friend Taindee was manning the newest coffee cart. 1997 was the year that Starbucks and its competitors really hit Texas. The idea of paying $3 for a cup of coffee was completely all the rage. Until this point I had swallowed coffee with 30 creams and 30 sugars to make it through all-nighters at the Jim's down the way from the university.

Taindee was the happiest of people, and was always ready with a smile. She also had this infectious laugh that got everyone going. We were in two student organizations together, and it was always a good time when Taindee was at an event.

"Hey Reese, how's it going?" Taindee asked, smiling.
"Ugh, horrible. I hate this class," I said.
"What class?" she asked
"Physics II," I said.
"Ah, the smart people's class," she joked. Taindee was an art major, truly talented in her own right.
"Here. Take a coffee with you," she said.
She began to steam, froth, and drip. Two minutes later she handed me a tall cup of dreaminess that forever changed my perception of coffee.
"How much do I owe you?" I asked, reaching for my wallet.

She winked "First one is free."

I found Taindee again on Facebook about a year ago. The first thing I noticed about her profile pic is that she was bald. Chemotherapy bald. My heart sank.

She seemed upbeat, but she was battling lung cancer. A freak cancer with an unknown cause. She had never smoked. She assumed the fumes from the chemicals in the art room may have caused it.

She was on her third relapse when I got in contact with her. Medicaid agreed to let her try to battle it one more time. Her Facebook posts got few and far in between. I went searching for answers about how she was doing today and found that she lost her battle a couple of months ago. I was mad at myself for not keeping up like I should have during that time. I blame the move, the insanity of pregnancy, everything...

She was a good person. The kind of person who brings light and happiness on a dark day. The most depressing thing about all this (other than the fact that cancer blows), is that I am getting to an age where people I know are dying, or enduring life threatening illnesses. I have another high school friend that is battling cervical cancer, and this is her 3rd time to bat as well. I foolishly think that 35 is young, and that life is boundless and infinite. I know it isn't, but on paper and in theory it is, no?

I am better for knowing Taindee, and I guess in the end that is all we can ever hope to gain or leave behind---our legacy of sorts. The memory that someone holds of you in some random moment---a nice moment where we take the time to sit and smile.

Taindee and coffee are my random moments. I wonder what random moments someone will hold of me when I'm gone?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thirteen More Weeks


A lot of things have been keeping me rightfully distracted the last 26 weeks.

Wow, I am already 26 weeks.

Work, primarily. Work. I have been acting Chief for a few months, and they officially made me the Chief two weeks ago. I have been doing all sorts of Chief and Senior Scientists things that have me in meetings, or calls, or turning in a million things at once. I was in DC last week, making friends and influencing people (ha!). And in two weeks, I will be flying down to Texas for hopefully my last meeting. I am drawing the line at flying after 30 weeks.

I had my follow up ultrasound today, and the boy cooperated and showed me and the ultrasound tech 4 chambers of his beautifully beating heart. He also showed me that he has his father's feet and his cheeks that are starting to fill out.

I registered. That was a surreal experience. I am trying to move forward, move like a 'normal' preggo woman. But then I get a phone call from an old friend, who wanted a sounding board for her co-worker who's wife is pregnant with twins, a boy and girl. The boy was diagnosed with Trisomy 18. They are trying to figure out what to do. I gave my 2 cents. If it was me, I would wait it out. They are 27 weeks along. I passed along my email and phone number. Just to make them feel they weren't alone.

Who am I fooling?

This is my new normal. I am pregnant with a seemingly healthy boy on the outside, but in my mind I have seen the light. The creepy crawlies that lurk. For every 10 babies born healthy, I hear of 1 that hasn't made it. And it doesn't so much hurt my heart in a devastating way so much anymore, but rather I feel I am a warrior now in this battle, seasoned and maybe a little pickled. I am the one the young ones come to when they are scared, or when devastation comes knocking on their door. I don't know how to feel about that. Honored? Bitter? Complacent, maybe.

I have 13 more weeks to go. And I told my doc this morning that there are many mini battles to be waged in this time period. She agreed. But in the meantime, my body seems to be cooperating. Fingers crossed that it continues.