Guest Author - A. Maria Hester, M.D.
Emily and Angela were the best of friends. As a matter of fact, they had been close since high school. They used to carpool to school, until they got their driver licenses at which point they took turns driving each other to school. They shared a dorm room together. And, of course, they were in each other's wedding. They were virtually inseparable.
Their kids grew up together and the cycle started again. They were alike in so many ways, except one very important one. Emily was the so called health fanatic. She exercised almost every day, she ate organic food, and she was always up to date on her annual examinations and preventive health screenings. Angela, on the other hand, was very nonchalant. She had the attitude that if something was going to happen, she would rather not know about it until she absolutely had to. Her logic was that she wanted to have as peaceful an existence as possible, for as long as possible. She turned a deaf ear to Emily’s repeated invitations to buddy up with her for their yearly Pap smears and mammograms.
One night, the phone rang at 11 pm and startled Angela. It was Emily. She was crying. The unthinkable had happened. Her doctor called to report that her mammogram was highly suspicious for malignancy and she needed a breast biopsy as soon as possible. After crying for what seemed like an eternity, she called her husband, who was overseas on a business trip, and then called her dearest friend, Angela.
Angela could barely sleep after hearing the news. As she lay in bed, she imagined attending her closest friend's funeral. How would she go on? Almost as far back as she could remember there was an Emily AND Angela, not just an Angela. As the hours leading up to Emily's biopsy passed ever so slowly by, Emily made up in her mind she would be the rock her friend so desperately needed. She was determined not to let her fear show. No, she had to be strong for the woman who had been there for her through thick and through thin.
Ring, ring, ring!!! Angela rushed to the phone every time it rang for the next few days until she received the call she was dreading. Yes, the lump WAS cancer and Emily was scheduled for surgery the following day. Again, Angela was right by her side through it all - through the lumpectomy, through the radiation, and, of course, through the hair loss and nausea from chemotherapy. But to her surprise, Emily never lost faith, or the determination to beat this cancer. Even on her bad days, she still managed to crack a smile or tell one of her signature corny jokes.
Weeks turned into months, and months into years - 5 years to be exact. The two friends celebrated the 5-year disease-free landmark with a glass of champagne and a pedicure. Finally, this nightmare was over, or so it seemed.
On the way back home, Angela blacked out behind the wheel and the car ran off the road into a shallow ditch. When Angela regained consciousness, she opened her eyes to see her loving friend Emily standing over her, ever so slightly bruised by their mishap. She did not understand why there were tears in her eyes. She looked too good to have sustained any serious injuries. Did she overhear something?
The doctor entered the room and asked if she could speak to Angela in private, but Angela politely explained that Emily was like her sister and she wanted her to stay. Then she learned why she had passed out. She had suffered her first ever seizure as a result of a large mass in her brain. She also learned why she had been feeling short of breath lately. It was the eleven masses in her lungs. Her doctor also detected a firm lump on the bottom of her right breast while she was out. Obviously, that was the culprit. There was no doubt in her mind that Angela had breast cancer. Unfortunately, it had spread too far to cure.
She knew all of those years of refusing to get her mammograms and examine her breasts, or even have her doctor examine them turned what would otherwise have been a routine surgery and possibly a few months of discomfort and inconvenience from radiation and chemo into a rapidly downhill spiral, unnecessary suffering, and ultimately, an untimely death. Suddenly her pregnant daughter burst into the room and ran to her bedside. How could she tell her? What words would she use to explain to her why she would not be around to watch her baby grow up. WHY? How could she have been so foolish? If only she could go back and make better decisions. If only...
A tale of two women – one was wise and the other was foolish. Which one are you?