My ride to the conference, and also a damn good friend and colleague, needed to leave a day early to tend to a personal matter. Before she left, we went to dinner, for the second time, at Mona Lisa's in Little Italy, San Diego. Every time she comes back from San Diego, it never fails that I hear "Oh my gosh, the next time you're in the area, you NEED to go to Mona Lisa's, and YOU HAVE TO ORDER THE LASAGNA. I always order extra and take it home."
Whatever. Food is food. It can't be that good.
We had dinner before she left, around 9:00. I got dropped off at my hotel, then shut the door and wished her a safe 2+ hour drive home. She was exhausted, but excited to get home and take care of some things. I texted later that night (at 10:40) to see if she wanted a MathGals shirt, but didn't hear anything until the next morning. In her ever-so-nonchalant manner, she wished me well on my presentation later that morning and, oh by the way, was in the hospital after rolling her car and needing 16+ staples in her head. The car was totaled, and she is fine. Strangers helped her, she got the papers she was hoping to give a teacher, even though she lost her leftover lasagna. She laughed about the incident, and thanked me for not being in the car, as the passenger side was the one that took the brunt of the damage.
Car accidents happen all the time. Some are tragic; others are blessings in disguise. Hers was not tragic.
Because of the accident, she needed to undergo some tests and doctor's appointments. On a side note, is everyone reluctant to go to the doctor unless something is wrong? While at one of the appointments, they found something that shouldn't be there: The Big C. Her summer was interrupted, but not before she put her family first, attending two weddings, enjoying time with friends, then undergoing surgery to remove cancer in her thyroid and two surgeries to remove cancer in her breast.
Her faith, trust, and peace through all of this has blown me away.
Now, as I sit here, she is about to go through 12 weeks of chemotherapy to ensure that the cancerous cells are out of her system and that she will be able to pull through this life event stronger than ever before. She will, because it's who she is. She's too stubborn to let it affect her.
Going back to that evening in San Diego, I have thought a number of times about what I should've done differently. I should have encouraged her to leave early the next morning, or even let me leave the conference early so I could ride with her, which I believe would've helped avoid the accident altogether. I should have called her along the way. I should have told her not to go to Mona Lisa's one more time and go home. But if any of those would've happened, the chance of catching cancer in two locations before it was too late would be next to impossible.
And then, when I think about it even more, I shouldn't have done anything differently. In this moment, at this time, all I can do is support and be there for a friend who has full faith in the process. From Paula, whom many of you in this math universe know and benefit from, in terms of her energy, passion, and work:
"As an old family saying goes: tougher than twenty acres of elm stumps."
Yes, you are, my friend.
And every time we're in San Diego, we will go to Mona Lisa's. And we HAVE TO ORDER THE LASAGNA. Because damn, it was so good.
Happy "Finding Strength" Fishing