|Reformed cancer survivor with morning smoothie.|
“Here,” he said. “Try this corned beef. It’s so lean! No fat at all!”
He laid out two big slices on butcher paper. It was delicious. I don’t eat a lot of meat. I don’t love meat. But he was so joyful, so enthusiastic, I had to eat the corned beef.
“Hey,” another customer said. “Are you giving her samples of my corned beef?”
“Oh! this is your corned beef?” I said. “Thank you. It’s really very good.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed it,” she said, chuckling as she headed off with her cold cuts.
Before I was finished chewing the beef, the joyful man pushed another sample toward me. It was ham; two big slices on another piece of butcher paper.
“Try it,” he said. “See if it’s what you want.”
In truth, I’d had enough. I was buying the ham for my husband, Michael, the Southern-bred meat eater in the family. But, again, the guy was so sweet and happy, like an old time butcher in a little town grocery store. So, with my other hand, I picked up a piece of ham. Now I was a two-fisted meat eater.
“Are you June Keith?” a woman new to the scene asked.
|Easter, 2011. Puleeese let my hair grow back!|
“How are you?” I mumbled, through the salty beef.
“I have cancer,” she said. “I just found out.”
Dear reader, I hope you are seeing the tragedy and the comedy in this little slice-of-life drama. I, a cancer survivor, am stuffing my face with nitrate-laden, fat-streaked, carcinogenic meat, while this lovely woman who probably last tasted meat in 1968, tells me she has cancer.
It seemed wrong to eat that meat as she told me her story. She is going on an extreme diet, she said, a diet that eliminates any carbohydrates whatsoever, because carbohydrates turn into sugar in the body, and cancer feeds on sugar.
|My beautiful, young and healthy Mennonite neighbors in Nova Scotia, picking strawberries.|
“I’m cured now,” I said. I told her it’s rough. My oncologist told me, at the very beginning of my treatment, it would be “no walk in the park.” No, it was a walk in the valley of the shadow of death. But I survived. And she will, too. I’m sure. We will both live on to die of something other than cancer.
|This opera singer lived to be 99 years and 9 months old. Smoking Chesterfields. Go figure.|
I had a big checkup the other day with the oncologist. I thought it would be bigger than it actually was. He felt my neck. Looked down my throat. Studied my blood test results, my lung X-ray and my PAP smear, and told me to call him if I found any hard lumps in my lymph nodes. No more scans. No more tests. No more regular six-month checkups. Today, I am cancer free, and beyond the reach of anything more modern medicine can do to me.
The doctor did tell me that since I’ve had cancer once, I have a greater chance of getting cancer again. But hopefully, he added, the cancer will never come back and I will die of something else.
Like what? Being hit by a bus? A heart attack? Old age? Stress brought on by worrying about my cancer returning?
“The good news,” Michael said, “is you’re too old to die young.”
I’ve already performed the miracle of rising from the dead. And very soon the burden of my medical bills will be turned over to Medicare. So pass the ham. And the marshmallow Peeps. And the chocolate bunny. And the Cadbury eggs. ‘Cause nobody dies on Easter Sunday.