We hear Keri has cancer.
“Oh no,” we say. But I’m optimistic. It’ll be a miserable slog, but people fight it and win.
Neighbor to turquoise, deeper than aquamarine.
An appealing blend of blue and green.
A shade found at the edge of dusk, in water shadows.
Silk scarf, wool sweater, quilt border, leather purse.
The color of dragons.
The color of ovarian cancer.
The color that defines Keri.
A strong woman. A warrior. She races to battle the teal dragon. Spear in one hand, whip in the other, teeth clinched to stifle her enraged scream. Prepared to endure, determined to conquer.
Skinny, sick, hair gone. Parts removed.
Doctors and nurses, dedicated and wise. They bring powerful weapons. They tell her they’re her team. She trusts their knowledge, relies on their encouragement.
Complications. So many complications.
She whips her foe with long violent strokes—get back, get back. She stabs its warty teal hide until it retreats, crouching and humbled, bitter and surly, rendered so tiny it cannot be seen.
Yay Keri, mighty dragon slayer.
She gains weight, looks good.
That’s it, we all think. She’s won.
We hear it’s come back.
“Oh no,” we say again. More cautious this time. More scared for Keri.
New treatment. Stronger? Better? More effective? Supposed to be.
This time the battle is longer and harder. Keri’s mantra: FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT. She wants to think of other things—her grandson, her husband, dinner, new appliances, the latest movies. But first she must be strong when she feels weak. Survival trumps life.
In and out of the hospital.
The dragon retreats. It returns. Retreats. Returns, stronger each time.
One by one her teammates peel away. They’re someone else’s team now.
She lies in a hospital bed in her living room. Small. Gray. Voice thready, barely audible. Doesn’t eat; can’t.
No more cancer meds, no more treatment. Pain control.
The family, every one of us. Husband. Grandson, nine years old; she’s raised him since he was a baby. Mother, brother. Aunts, uncles, cousins. And so many friends.
Stunned. Helpless. Paralyzed.
No longer such a pretty color.