My brother called last night. He was in Houston, Texas browsing around a bookstore. He had flown in for his semi annual check up at MD Anderson. He is a cancer survivor too having been diagnosed with colorectal cancer at the tender age of thirty eight. Twelve rounds of chemotherapy, two surgeries and three and a half years later, he is doing well and happy to be in remission. I am happy too. The farther away we get from it, the better.
"I am going over to have dinner at La Madeleine." He told me. Then I remembered the significance of this comment. After his initial surgery, he had to stay in Texas for three weeks to recuperate. His wife was there for the first week but had to go home to care for their son. My mother and father moved into a temporary apartment with him for the duration of his stay. I also flew out in an effort to be supportive.
Several nights after I got there, the four of us went out to dinner at La Madeleine. This was Jim's maiden voyage out of the apartment after his surgery. We were all a little apprehensive about how he would feel, what he could eat or even if he would eat. Then the moment came when we heard him crack one of his corny jokes. We all gave each other a knowing glance. Our Jim was back. His wacky sense of humor was shining through and we knew in our hearts that he would be okay. We breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The thought of Jim going back to this restaurant brought a flood of emotions to me. Before that year, we were just like every other brother and sister. Sharing our childhood, moving into adulthood and finally becoming parents. Now we have something else that we share which has made us a little bit wiser and stronger. Our cancer made us glance at our mortality when we weren't ready to look. We won't take much for granted these days.
As I hung up the phone I said, "I love you Jim." There was a slight pause. "Jeanne I love you too." Prior to our illnesses we might not have told each other this. Now, we both understand how precious our lives are and how important it is to let the ones you love know it.