She looked a bit pale; her skin “thinner” than the last time I saw her. The turban wound tight and pulled down touching her ears. Her smile slightly less bright. There was a port taped to her skin near her collar bone – the skin angry around the entry point. “You look like you’re in a fight.” I said.
She smiled and said, “Yes”, then looked at her friend at the counter and said, “How am I fighting again?”
“Like the third monkey on the ramp of Noah’s Ark!” her friend replied.
And fight she did.
At times when I saw her she would give me a good report. She even told me with excitement once, “I’m clear! Cancer free.”
But, as it happens sometimes, the cancer came raging back at some point. She had to leave the front counter of my cleaners and moved to a back table where she could sit and mend, altering clothing for customers. Sometimes I would walk back to say hello. Her smile still bright, but weakened by the fight.
Then she wasn’t there. “Gone home to rest” they would say. “It doesn’t look good.”
“How’s Kathleen?” I asked this morning as I laid my shirts on the counter. The lady at the computer just shook her head sadly. “She’s gone. Passed away on Saturday”. And there it was. The moment when you feel helpless and sad that there was nothing you could do to help. No way to say goodbye. Just gone.
I hate cancer.
I didn’t know Kathleen Shelton Buckner from Madison County well, but we connected at the counter at the Asheville Cleaners, and she was my friend.
I wrote this story in January of last year but didn’t post it because my father-in-law was in a fight of his own with cancer. I didn’t even want to type the words, “passed away on Saturday” at the time.
Sadly, Monday, May 11th marked the one year anniversary of his passing.
I hate cancer.