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Cousin Pam Has Cancer
by Christine Merser
My beloved Cousin Pam has cancer. Here is the thing - there are perhaps three or four people in the world who make up my soul, and Cousin Pam is one of them.
She is nine years younger than me, and we grew up together with me as her big sister. She's been by my side through two marriages and one start-up company; she was there for me while I was raising my fabulous Sarah, and I officiated at her marriage (If you know me, I'm sure you are wondering the same thing I did - why would a twice-divorced and unattached cousin be asked to officiate? Got me, but it was one of the highlights of my life.).
She's been with me – and vice versa – through all kinds of ups and downs that made us the soundtrack for each other's lives. She's my person.
And now she has breast cancer. What do I write her? What do any of us write to those that get cancer who matter so very much? How do we send them on their way to toxic choices that kill the disease at the expense of their bodies and life? To choose to pollute the body to save it is a difficult trip to take. So, I write her and the cancer a note.
Hear this, Cancer. Listen up. You are now messing with my posse, and I'm mad as hell, which is never a good thing. Trust me on this.
So, what's the plan you ask, Cousin mine? We have to have a plan for everything. I have a plan.
There is no losing on this one. You will win, and it will be a yucky journey that we will look back on in one year and wish had never happened. But, you will win.
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There are lots of decisions to be made. This is that moment when you can do exactly what you want, say what you want, and take as much time as you want to decide whatever it is you need to decide (Pam and I have very different styles: I make instantaneous decisions and rarely look in the rear-view mirror, whereas she is more thoughtful. Okay, let's be real, she actually thinks things through rather than jumping.) If anyone can't wait for you to decide, than he or she can go do something else while you take your sweet time.
Yes, you will lose your hair, but although you've told me you think it is your best feature, I'm here to tell you it is not. Your best feature is your eyes, which will now have a wisdom in them that comes from this detour on your journey - surely a trip you would gladly have given up, but we don't get to choose everything. Besides, your hair will grow back again, and I have it on good authority that it will grow back straight.
You have asked me to be there when the hair gets chopped off, and I'll be there for sure. Count on it. We have one month to get some ass-kicking hats, and I'm on it.
Think Les Misérable, and Anne Hathaway without hair. Anne Hathaway. Cousin Pam. Anne Hathaway. Cousin Pam. Then there was Demi Moore in GI Jane. And didn't she kick some ass and look good? Demi Moore. Cousin Pam. Yes that can work.
You have permission to eat as much ice cream as you want during chemo. No judgment. I mean it. Oh, the hell with it. You can eat whatever you want for the next six months. Sue me.
Don't answer the phone unless you want to. Even if I'm on the other end. Think carefully if it is me though, and remind yourself that I can make you laugh at anything. No pressure.
Remember the following things about yourself when you are second-guessing whether you can do this or not: You were nine when you visited me at college, and I was riding my bike too fast, and I looked back and you were pedaling furiously - furiously I tell you - to keep up without yelling for me to slow down. Not once.
You moved to Colorado because you knew somewhere deep inside that it was where you belonged. You were terrified; you didn't know anyone - and look at your fabulous life now.
When I was visiting you in Framingham and your dad, my Uncle Gerry, got you up to go running five miles (you were ten!) before school, you just did it. No questions. You just did it. This is the same thing. Do you hear me? You will just do it.
You are an entrepreneur. You work for yourself and you make a living. You have built all that you have, and you don't complain. Okay, sometimes you complain, but I'm sure you only do that so I don't feel bad complaining so much to you. Just remember you started by selling muffins you made in the kitchen, for God's sake.
To quote the fabulous Yoda, "There is no try, there is only do," and you Pammy, are the poster child for do. So go do. One year. Do.
So listen up Cancer, you bitch. You have messed with the wrong sista, and you will pay with your sorry life inside my fabulous cousin. Adios.
Christine Merser recently moved from New York City and Los Angeles to West Barnstable where she works in marketing as the Managing Director for Blue Shoe Strategy, a marketing company.
She writes the blog, FreesiaLane.com, voted one of the ten best blogs in 2009, as well as http://www.morethanmovies.net/, where she reviews movies from a female perspective. Christine has been published in The New York Times, Newsweek, The Huffington Post and other online and print media. She is currently working on a book titled Intervention with hopes of finishing before hell freezes over.
She spent her childhood summers on the Cape where her family, the Hinckley Family, has called home for sixteen generations.
Do email her at Christine@ChristineMerser.com.