Fuck you, cancer. You may win in the end, but we’ll spit in your eye and go on our own terms.
I buried my Grandmother today. She was 87—she had a good innings. She left behind four kids, eight grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. No great-great-grandchildren like her parents had, but I guess our kids aren’t as fecund (or as irresponsible) as my generation was. She was a nurse for 52 years, beginning with the U.S. Army Cadet Nurse Corps in 1943.
Permanent fixtures of my childhood, she and Gramps moved into my Dad’s house to take care of us when he was deployed to Desert Shield/Storm. Gramps was diagnosed with cancer in ’91 and given six months to live. Grandma was diagnosed in ’92, with an indeterminate prognosis. Still, they took care of myself and my brother, while dealing with my obstinate rebel of an older cousin (17 and living with us) (he’s better now, especially as he has two teens of his own).
Gramps made it to 2001, lasting 10 years on a six-month sentence. Grandma beat cancer and went back to work until ’95, when she finally retired at 70. Then she beat cancer again. And then the bastard came back for a third round this summer. She wasn’t going to fight it at first, not wishing to endure another round of chemo and radiation. She was persuaded to fight, mostly by the great-grandchildren who grew up 200 yards away (the aforementioned cousin’s kids). And fight she did, through debilitating treatments for a third time. But in the end, she could hardly eat. She was down to 90 pounds.
By the time she went to the hospital last week, she’d had enough. She directed that no extraordinary measures be taken. She was tired, and she was ready to go. With her sat her two daughters, both career nurses themselves (more than 120 years of nursing experience was in that room—you’re goddamn right no bullshit was put up with). Her two sons were in and out, making arrangements and contacting family. A couple of us grandchildren were able to make it there to express our love, say goodbye, and sit deathwatch.
I’m rambling, sorry.
So listen up, cancer. You can come. And you may win in the end. But when you come for a wind-bit western-Kansas farmer, you’ll spend 20x longer waiting than you expected. And when you come for his bride of 54 years, you’ll leave when she damn well decides she’s had enough. And not a moment sooner.