She knew getting in touch with him through a networking site was a bit lame, but it had been some time since she'd last seen him. He'd sent the invite completely out of the blue some time ago, but finally decided to give it a go and join up - he was one of the first people she tracked down on there.
In his first reply back to her he told her he had cancer.
He'd awoken up with stomach pain and thought it was just a hangover. He decided he'd suck it up and drink it off, a habit not out of place considering his new lifestyle. He was living it up up north, enjoying the sun, the way of life and his new dream job. It wasn't until the pain caused him to pass out that it was decided hospital might be a good idea - he was diagnosed with a hernia.
She laughed with him as he professed this. He had always been a bit of a joker and clown. A similar taste in humor wrapped up in the body of the lanky geeky friend.
The hernia operation ran smoothly, leaving a cough in it's aftermath. When the cough refused to leave, even after the pneumonia antibiotics had run their course, another trip to the doctor was scheduled and blood tests were run.
He sat in the doctors office along, awaiting his results. When the doctor arrived, he looked up at his patient, back down at the results in his hand, back up at the patient and let the profanity escape his lips - he could not contain his surprise at realizing his patient was not a man is his sixties, but the boy of only 25.
The tumor was pressing on his left lung, 14 centimeters wide. The smaller tumors sat in front of his right lung, the largest only a few centimeters wide. Prognosis was positive in that they'd caught it early - perhaps the operations had kicked off the germ cells, caused the tumor to grow. It wasn't related to the years of social smoking that she had long protested against, pretending to borrow his cigarette to give it a puff, only to stomp it out on the floor of the nightclub.
She suggested they catch up for lunch and he met her at the local vegetarian restaurant. Presumably due to his health, he was unable to eat stir fried veggies, but didn't mind the crispy soy chicken and red rice she suggested . His spirits were high and he looked well, only the beanie making him seem a little out of place in the room that was not as cold as it was outside. He told her about the award he'd been nominated for, how he was applying for a new job after just being offered another good one and how he was not so fond of the newer networking sight as everyone knew what was going on. He didn't want the pity and just wanted to focus on the future and his impending recovery.
The cell count dropped from 94,000 to 54 after the operation. They had removed most of the tumor and things were looking good. She reminded him that chicks digged scars - he assured her there were plenty to dig. He was supposed to tell her when he was able to receive visitors during his stay, but was released sooner than he expected. After she teased him about this he let her know that he was going back in for five days and she was more than welcome to visit, and to bring a friend or two from their uni days.
The three met in the sunshine at 11am on a Saturday. She could sense they were nervous but they all made small talk on their way up to the ward, clouding the fact that they were happy to see each other again after so long, regretting the fact that this is what it took to meet up.
They squinted at the whiteboard on the wall of the nurses station, trying to decipher which room he was in. 19, 20, 21 - there he was. In the bed by the window.
Had she not used the networking site to see the most recent photos of him, she would not have recognised him - hair and eyebrows gone, skin pale and face bloated. Despite the fluid he looked small in his bed, some of the glint remaining in his eyes as he shook hands with the friends he'd not seen in a few years.
She sat and the two friends stood, bedside for almost three hours. Catching up on what he'd been going through and what they could remember from the days gone past. The ill fated drinking competition with a rematch still waiting. The drunken nights of dancing and kicking the top off of letterboxes. Boot rides and beer and names long forgotten.
He had one more day in the hospital, one last session to go. A tumor had appeared near his heart, another close by. The count has risen back over 1000 days before the chemo had started again. After this, he was unsure. It would start to affect his hearing although he figured it was a small price to pay. He'd had stem cells removed and made the embarassing trip to the sperm bank - another funny story in which he'd needed to visit his grandma's house and needed to leave in a hurry, sample tucked under his armpit.
He can have two more sessions, almost lethal amounts that will reduce him to eating through a tube. As his cells die his stem cells will be returned, trying to bring the life back that is so longed for.
After that, there is nothing he can do.
Three more bags, maybe three more months.
The boy that had followed her friend around. The boy that she sat with in maths and nearly flunked. The boy that had entertained her and annoyed her through uni. The boy she had wrestled to the ground in her only schoolground tussle.
Pulled by his hair to the ground.