Friday, April 18, 2014

Cancer sucks

Mementos from my cancer experience are scattered throughout my bedroom: a box that has the word breathe on it, a tiny tennis ball with a smiley face, a blue glass ball, a wind-up horse reminding me to laugh about the pony scene from "Seinfeld," a windup car reminding me to keep the car on the road, and three angels, one of them holding a lantern to light the way. (Do Jews believe in angels? Sure, why not?)

The Ronni bear, one of those build-a-bears given to me by my pals from my mixed doubles team, sits on a stool. She wears a tennis skirt and tennis shoes and holds a racquet. My name is written on her shirt. Of course I still have the patchwork quilt signed by friends from work.

And, in my jewelry box, a button that one of the attendants gave me in the hospital. It says Cancer Sucks.

Not that any of us need to be reminded, but there are times that it really jumps out at you. One of those times was last night at calling hours for Peter Boisvert (Pete), husband of our tennis teacher Annie. He died too young on Sunday of multiple myeloma, a cancer in which plasma cells grow out of control to crowd out normal blood-forming cells.

It is one of three blood cancers, along with lymphoma and leukemia (which I had). He also went to Dana-Farber.

Some people may know of it because that's what NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw has. It can be treated but not cured.

You heard people saying at the calling hours last night that no one could have fought harder than Pete. Along with a friend, he would get on his bike and ride 100 miles at a time. He fought it for about 10 years, his struggle paralleling mine. Annie and I often traded updates.

The tennis community was out last night in full force. Everyone likes Annie for her talent and sense of humor. Some of us take our sport too seriously, and we need reminders to laugh at ourselves. One time Annie walked by a court where I was playing, turned her head and shouted, "Gordon, what's with that backhand?"

People said that Pete was very funny too. He was incredibly handsome, talented in many ways, and, according to his obituary, kind, gentle and unpretentious.

Their beautiful daughter, about to go to med school, was there last night, saying he had seemed OK for so long that she just couldn't believe it.

Cancer really does suck.

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