My mother told me tonight that my father's closest friend (okay, ONLY friend; what was with that?) has cancer. His is colon and apparently operable; they're opening him up tomorrow.

He asked my mother if colon was the same kind my father had. But the thing I have learned about cancer is that it is a single disease in name only. Every kind of cancer is totally different and has its own behaviour and growth patterns. My father's was gastric; more specifically, GEJ – cancer of the gastro-esophageal junction. Gastric is nasty. Colon, well, nasty also, but there are thousands of people walking around who have beaten it. Gastric, not so many.

He was reassured when he found out it wasn't.

Just before my father was diagnosed, he was musing with my sister on the drive back from Montreal, about which kinds of cancer he would hate to have. His cousin died of bone cancer, long before his time, and in lots and lots of pain. And my mother's brother died of pancreatic cancer, which was fast and miserable. So he didn't want to have that one, either.

I have to feel hopeful for his friend that - if one were to desire a particular type of cancer, colon would be one of the better ones.

My personal top pick would be SKIN. Nanny had skin cancer for years and they'd just snip off a piece every once in a while; that was that. After skin... hmm... something not too central, not too vital for life. Maybe TOE. Do they have toe cancer? Hair cancer?

I won't put his friend's name in here, but please think happy thoughts in his direction. He's originally from India, lives downtown, works in real estate, has a lovely wife, two kids and the biggest, warmest smile. He adopted his wife's daughter from her first marriage. He throws the best New Year's parties, and not just occasionally... every single year. It was probably the last time my father ever went out socially... less than two weeks before he died. You can set a clock by his New Year's parties; when Elisheva was born on December 31st, I knew exactly where to reach my parents. Hint: they were NOT spending new year's at home.

My father would always semi-shamedly and semi-gleefully recount their adventures on December 31, driving around for party supplies, shopping for and sampling the freshest oysters for the party. Shamefully with me, because they weren't kosher. Gleefully because it was fun.

And talk about cultural exchange: a lifetime of seders, Diwali parties... and camping trips. He was my dad's ticket to India, long, long ago, when he hauled my father along with him, back home to break the news that he wasn't marrying the nice Indian girl his parents had picked out for him. Oh, and he'd married a lovely, white, anabaptist (mennonite?) woman over in Canada. With a child. A shanda!

So now, even if not by name, you've gotten to know him by character. And this isn't a eulogy, because he is going to be just fine.


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