Years ago, as I rode the morning train into the city for university classes, I befriended another rider who shared the same stop. Often, we chatted about inconsequential things such as the weather and music – always scraping the surface, but never getting truly personal. She was a kind, witty woman; in her mid-twenties, she was already working downtown as a litigation assistant.
Months passed and we took to sitting together whenever we spotted each other in line. Since I only had morning classes three times per week, I saw her on and off throughout the semester. Then, weeks went by and I didn’t see her at all. Reasoning that she had probably changed jobs (or careers – she often talked about branching out in her field), I thought about how lonely the ride seemed with no one to talk to.
One morning, she once again appeared at my stop. I smiled broadly and approached quickly, taking long strides to meet up with her. As she turned, I instantly pulled back. She had lost weight; her eyes were rimmed with dark circles and her usually immaculately made up face was makeup-free and sallow.
I hesitated; I knew something was terribly wrong, but I’ve never been particularly forward about soliciting bad news. So I smiled tentatively and told her it was good to see her again. Grinning back at me, we boarded the train and settled into our seats.
“My mom is fighting cancer,” she announced with no preamble whatsoever.
I looked at this woman whom I had chatted with for months, and didn’t know what to say. So I simply put my hand over hers, and whispered – “I hope she wins.”
“There is always hope,” she replied with a smile.
The train arrived at the station, we said goodbye and parted ways. And, I never saw her again.
For weeks I scanned the obituaries for any mention of her family name. I looked for her every morning until the end of the school term, but she never reappeared at the train stop. There is always hope, she had said. In that moment, I prayed that her hope had given her strength. And that she knew I was thinking about her.
This holiday season, I’m remembering my morning commuter with The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation Doves of Hope Campaign.
Doves of Hope show patients that they aren’t alone in their fight to conquer cancer. The Doves are completely free to create, and knowing that other people are fighting with them gives patients and their families tremendous hope during their journey with cancer….