The Cancer Channel: One Year. Two Cancers. Three Miracles.
Sarah E. McDonald
When we were still early on in telling friends about my cancers, we grabbed drinks and dinner with our friends Ian and Ceylan Thomson. When they received my cancer bombshell email, they immediately reached out to say they’d love to meet up with us. We were nervous about the evening for many reasons. We knew we were still unrehearsed in how to be the couple that can talk openly about the ridiculously scary situation you’re in without being that couple that can only talk about that situation. We wanted to be more. We wanted to be normal. When you’re not normal, you can sometimes scare people. Since diagnosis, I had felt at times like a leper and worried people would avoid me/us because disease, like bad luck, can feel like it is contagious.
But mostly we were nervous because we liked this couple a lot. They had both lived in multiple countries. Ian spoke three languages. Ceylan spoke at least four. Like many who have lived in Europe, they touched your arm when they made their point in a conversation. Ian laughed loudly and often. Ceylan smiled slyly and conspiratorially. They didn’t just debate U.S. politics, they discussed world politics. We were smarter and funnier when we were with them, and I desperately did not want my cancer contagion to make things awkward.And it didn’t. Upon meeting them at the long, crowded bar, Ian wrapped his big arms around me and told me how much he loved me. As we sat at the bar, Ian opened up about how cancer had impacted his family. It was clear we had found a safe place with these friends. Cancer made us closer, not farther apart. We relaxed and settled into a bubbly evening of good food with good friends.
So when Ian and Ceylan finally purchased a house in the Mission District, we were eager to join their housewarming party. We knew there would be a raucous, fascinating melting pot of people gathered to celebrate their homeownership and we wanted to place ourselves in the middle of that celebration. It was an unusually hot day in San Francisco, maybe 80 degrees, so the party was taking place in the backyard. In a city whose average temperature is 63 even in July, 70 is reason enough to wear short sleeves and shorts—and at 80 degrees people were practically naked. I was just completing chemo protocol 1, so I had a patchy head of hair and a cute dress on. I was still enjoying the taste of alcohol and had a sangria (in a red Solo cup) at the party. Because of the surprising weather, the people at the party had the happy buzz of the first day of summer vacation and we spent a lovely couple of hours meeting them.
We left the party and made our way out to our car which Geoff had parallel parked into an impossibly small space. I had been sipping my sangria slowly so I still had the red Solo cup in my hand. I remember looking to my right and down the street to see a large truck approaching as I walked between our car and the car parked tightly in front of us. Suddenly, I felt something smack the hand with the red Solo cup and it went flying into the air, the last sips of my sangria with it. At the same time my hand was being smacked, I felt something moving closely beside me and kind of nudge me. It took me a moment to realize that what had nudged me was the truck I had seen, and what had smacked my hand was actually the side mirror of the truck. I had been hit by a car. To be clear, I had not been hit at all hard—but I had just missed being really hit by a car.
I stood there with my mouth open and my hand dripping wet. The truck slammed on his brakes and unprompted, I walked over to his passenger window.
“Wow!” I said. “I want you to know that I am totally okay, but I bet that surprised both of us!”
“Oh my God, are you alright?” this older man with a mustache and trucker hat asked me. “I am so sorry.”
“I am so sorry for both of us—and so happy that the worst part of it was the scare we both just got. Thanks for stopping. I hope you have a great life.” I babbled at him while. We both registered how lucky we both had just been.
Reflections on getting hit by a car:
1. All these doctors are trying to save my life with protracted expensive cancer treatments, then I almost get offed by a dude in a trucker hat? That was wild.
2. I am all focused on how I might have this long, slow death by cancer and then I almost lose it in an instant by being hit by a car? That was a mind-bender.
3. I am so thrilled that the driver and I were so kind to one another. I love that kind of thing. We were both totally rattled and neither of us reacted by yelling at the other one. That was awesome.