“How are you today?”
Such an innocent question. Such a loaded question. I mainly tried to avoid eye contact as I filled Indigo’s prescription at Costco. The Zip Fizz sample guy was amped up (“Come on! Try some!!) but I made it out of his territory safely. The pharmacist, though – she read the paperwork.
“How old is she?”
I told her she’s eleven. She made a sympathetic noise and looked up from the screen. “Cancer?”
Lymphoma, I replied. We just found out.
That was all that needed to be said.
I returned half an hour later to get the pills. We met with an oncologist earlier today, but declined aggressive treatment. It felt wrong. Doing nothing at all also felt wrong, as at this stage she only has a few weeks left. So we took path that felt most likely to keep Indigo healthy and peaceful – a couple of drugs to shrink the tumors a bit, with basically no risk of side effects.
Next stop was Trader Joe’s for groceries. TJ’s is well known for its chatty and personable employees, who routinely engage you in conversation while ringing up your purchases. Today, the friendly guy asked me, “How are you? What are you up today? A party?”
Damn. He was not to be denied.
“Do you really want to know?” I queried. He looked at me expectantly, so I went for it. “I just took my dog to the oncologist.”
And what followed was actually really – nice. Genuine. He didn’t apologize for asking, or make me feel bad for being such a downer. He just asked how old – everyone’s first question when illness strikes, it seems – and then shared his own experience with his dog dying last year.
“I don’t ever say oh, they’ve had a good life so its okay. It is always hard. My dog was 14 and riddled with cancer. I was with him at the end. They are there for us everyday – that’s all we can do is be there for them.”
And then he gave me a chocolate bar.
Truth – and chocolate. It will set you free.