I love this photo. Four friends who have just changed out of heavy boots and into flip flops at the end of a long day of hiking. We would sleep fitfully in our bunk beds that night in Greenleaf Hut, high in the White Mountains, under scratchy woolen blankets. We would smush soft pink plugs into our ears to drown out the roof-rattling snores from the mens’ dorm. And in the morning we would laugh our way down the mountain in the rain.
We would not talk about cancer or clinical trials or miracles. We would not mention what we all knew to be true: that this would be the last time we’d ever climb a mountain together. For twenty-four hours, we simply savored the moments at hand: the glorious views from the top, the soggy sandwiches in our backpacks, the slick trail under foot, silly jokes, wet socks, togetherness.
Just over a year later, in October 2010, my dear friend Diane died of ovarian cancer. (That’s her in the black fleece, looking radiant despite the fact she’d spent the early morning in the hospital getting an experimental treatment.)
As I type these words, I carry another close friend in my heart as she nears the end of her own journey with cancer. And I am reminded, with equal parts of gratitude and sadness, of the lessons Diane taught me during her illness. [continue…]