The Young and the Cancer
The bus arrived in front of a crowded coffee shop near a private airport and Angel ran quickly off the bus to reserve a table while the others followed closely behind.
Annie suddenly heard a plane as she took her last step off the bus. She loved the sound of a plane, because it reminded her of her father who used to be a pilot, and she looked up to see where the plane was coming from. It flew low across the coffee shop, circled, and then flew back, changing altitude quickly, searching and combing the streets and buildings. Annie could see the pilot so clearly.
I wonder if I will live long enough to fly on an airplane, she wondered, her heart beating hard.
Annie concentrated on the pilot as he swooped so low she could see that he was saying something, probably radioing back to someone about what was going on, but Annie pretended he was talking to her, that he was her dad, and he was checking up on her. He’d flown in because he wanted to tell her how proud he was of her. And he wanted her to stay strong, keep learning—keep her head up high while battling cancer.
Yeah, well, maybe it was her imagination, but she liked thinking every airplane pilot was her father.
The piercing shriek of a high-speed fire truck broke into her thoughts. No one else seemed to care. The sounds of ambulance sirens passing made her think about the last trip to the hospital when she almost died for forgetting to take her medication. The bystanders showed no reaction to the noise because either a chase or a crime occurred on a daily basis in their area; murder, robbery, drug use—all commonplace. Why look up? Why care? No one could do anything about it anyway.
“Hey, lady,” said Angel, “why are you staring at that plane like it’s the first time you ever saw one?”
Annie felt her face grow hot with emotion. Her heartbeat hard with hope. “I was just fantasizing about flying on a plane before cancer kills me, taking me away, flying me away from this painful earth; away from this depressing world of hospitals and medications. If I could just fly out of this kidney cancer body. I wish I could run marathons again.
I wish my boyfriend did not leave me because of my illness, and I wish he was here hugging me now,” she said, with sadness heavy on her mind, moistening her eyes as she blinked back tears. She didn’t want her friends to think she was weak; she didn’t feel weak; she felt empowered by the thoughts of her father and how he could help her escape her sickness.
“Oh. There she goes, daydreaming about flying,” said Ruby.
Angel shook his head angrily. “Get over it,” he said. “Annie, you are starting to depress me again. Now get your head out of those clouds and tell me what kind of drink you want.”
Annie was put off by Angel’s words. “Okay, Angel, anything but soda.”
They all sat on a bench under a bright green umbrella.
“This is such a nice coffee shop,” Annie said. “Wow.”
“Oh, it’s okay,” said Kate.
Angel was not in the best mood and left to get their drinks and pastry.
“Hey, Angel really never likes to talk about cancer. That is probably why he is in remission. He is very secretive about his feelings, don’t you think so?” Annie finished strongly.
“Maybe it’s because we all have cancer, and we depress him or something,” Ruby, said sadly.
Angel came back with the beverages. They all had a look of happiness as they sipped their beverages enjoying the atmosphere and feeling free. Annie noticed a woman possibly in her 20’s giving a kiss to a guy that looked like her ex-boyfriend.
Angel noticed a father sitting down with his son coaching him about basketball.
Angel broke in, loudly, “Cancer sucks. Why did I have to get it at such a young age?”
Angel never got to enjoy his childhood from being sick all the time, thought Annie “You never got to play sports at all because of your cancer?” she said with grief on her face.
Angel was silent; his eyes filled with anger. “Just put it like this; I spent most of my childhood in and out of hospitals, just because of Sickle cell anemia. Annie, you are lucky you got cancer when you became an adult. My childhood was stolen, a loser I was. I’ll never be able to make up for the loss of my childhood.”
“Maybe you should focus on your remission,” sadly said Annie.
Annie felt sorrier for him than she did herself. “You’re a trooper, Angel. You are going to have to forgive yourself for having to battle with cancer most of your life, and move on,” she said. “I know it’s not easy. At least you have gotten rid of your cancer for now.”
Angel smacked his one closed fist into the open palm of his other hand. “No way. This would have to happen to me,” he said, choking back emotion.
Kate saw him struggling, and stepped in to remind him that he is not alone. “Well, my skin cancer won’t keep me from worshipping the sun,” she said.
“How could you still worship the sun?” asked Ruby, using her hat to block the sun from Kate.
“I’m not going to let skin cancer stop me from having fun. I am the so-called cancer survivor.”
“Well, I think we are all cancer survivors. Ruby, how do you feel about your cancer now?” Annie asked.
Ruby face clouded up. “I get angry sometimes but I’ll keep fighting breast cancer until the day I die. I just kind act like it’s not there. I’m okay for now.”
Annie looked into the eyes of each of her friends. She wanted them to know they were important to her. “It doesn’t matter if we have cancer or not. That won’t stop us from making the most of our lives,” she explained. “Everyone cheer up. We will be okay. How about a group hug?”
They all hugged each other as though it were the last time they would see each other; they needed each other very much. To break the emotional tension, Annie added, “After all, we get to go home and take our medicine so that we can live!”
Everyone broke out in a big laugh.
“You see; life is not so bad after all,” said Annie.
Angel gave her an extra hug. “You’re the optimist for today,” he said. “All right, you guys, let’s go have fun at the beach. Everybody enjoy yourselves and don’t think about having cancer. Let the waves take it all away. We have to be smart, and we have to be careful, and we will live for a very long time.”
They all stared at each other with long and careful looks, gaining the assurance they were always going to be there for each other.
Suddenly, another plane flew back and forth over the coffee shop; the strong gusts of wind created by the plane made her think about dying of cancer before she could finally ride on a plane.
Angel wasn’t distracted by the plane; he was tired of all the socializing and affection that was going on with the patrons and wanted to get away.
“Come on, guys, let’s go,” yelled Angel.
“Hey wait, I am not finished with my cappuccino drink,” said Ruby.
“Yea, I want to stay a little longer,” shouted Kate.
“Guys, if we stay here too long we won’t have time to go out and have some more fun,” exclaimed Angel. Let’s go to the beach. It’s just right up the block.”
“Yes, that sounds like fun,” happily said Kate. “I don’t have any sunblock, but I will survive.”
“I would not be caught dead without sunblock,” said Ruby.
“Let rock and roll,” shouted Annie.
They ran for five minutes so peacefully across the sand trying to keep their drinks from spilling. Angel is ahead. He dropped his drink, and dived into the water as though he had never had a problem in the world. The others followed closely behind.
“Hey, Angel” wait for me.” Annie dived next into the water with the biggest smile on her face.
Kate pinned her hair up as she was running, and Ruby put her French braids into a ponytail and took her time getting into the water.
“Wow, oh yes. This is the life,” shouted Angel.
“Wow, I have never been in ocean water,” said Annie. “This water is awesome.”
“Shoot, my hair is getting too wet,” said Kate.
“There goes my corn-roles, but it’s worth it,” Ruby said.
They were spending over two hours in the ocean feeling so free. A day of fun was running out, and they knew it was time to head home; a home that reminded them to take their next medication or to remember that next doctor’s appointment. Annie became worried about being late getting home so that she could take her treatment. She was just standing in the water while the others were still swimming. They quickly noticed Annie’s pouting and stopped swimming. Her sad face was a reminder that it was time to head back home. They all looked back at the ocean as though it was going to be their last swim. Then the dark cloud arrived, and the sun disappeared.