"Are you sisters?"
After 15 years of parallel lives we have mastered the way to answer it - simultaneously we put on a straight face: "we are actually brothers". Puzzled faces, a good laugh is what follows, always!
And we have made each laugh, a lot! Brotherhood is a beautiful thing. Francesca and I met at room 302, in Bluche, Switzerland - FIFTEEN years ago. We were roommates. Her English was bad, mine was terrible. We dressed weirdly - she liked red lipstick, my shoes were bulky. We clicked! We were both young, from Brazil, excited about school in Switzerland.
- Christmas 1996 - we dined at Match Restaurant, NYC. Our English had improved (slightly), she was wearing lip gloss, I had high heels on and everything was the same! We were young and ambitious, excited about live in New York city!
- Summer 2006. I am pregnant again, I quit my job, Francesca resigns. We enjoy being stay-at-home Moms, we go to the movies at 2pm, we watch Oprah regiously, my belly grows.
- March 22nd, 2007. Five days before my scheduled C-Section. The phone rings, Francesca is in the hospital. What? Something in her lung? What? Everything is a blur from there on. She has pancreatitis, needs to go for a biopsy, LARGE mass in her lung. I have to go for an amino, pre ops tests for a c-section. Back to her hospital room. What is going on?
- March 26th. Last sonogram, baby is okay, ready for birth. Back to Francesca's hospital, biopsy results are due any minute. Hours go by, the wait is killing all of us. End of the day. Someone tells us no results today. I have to go home, get ready for Malu's arrival.
- March 27th. Malu is a healthy little girl. Surgery goes well. There is a roller coaster of emotions inside me. My heart is overwhelmed. Nice to meet you Malu. News from Francesca? She says we spoke, from our hospital rooms; I don't remember. She cant wait to meet Malu; we have to wait one more day for the biopsy results.
- March 28th. I can eat solid again food again, IV is out. I stand up for the first time after surgery, almost passed out. Something is not right, probably anxiety. Fever kicks in, antibiotics, IV back. The phone rings, my heart sinks. Tears, lots of them. The nurse brings pain killers and baby, it's feeding time. Tears, lots of them. The nurse brings a questionnaire I need to fill out: "Postpartum depression". I smile. I need to tell her: I am okay, but "my friend has cancer". I can't believe my own words. I still cant. But the good news is that its Lymphoma. The most common and most curable type of cancer. Aren't we so blessed? Funny how everything in life is so relative. We were afraid it was lung cancer. Lymphoma? Stage IV? Bring it on! She will beat it!
- April 2nd. I am home, she is out of the hospital today. I see her car coming down the street. We meet. I have a another child, she shaved her hair. One week went by since we last saw each other, so much has happened. Our English is almost perfect by now (NOT!), she has no lip gloss, I have no shoes on. We hug - everything was the same! We are young and blessed, and no matter how many bumps there will be in the next few months; I can see us dancing the funky chicken on our 85th birthday party.