Dear Mrs. Riley,
I’m not sure if you are still teaching, and if not, what is occupying your time. I know you had cancer, which is quite time consuming and really sucks. As much as I hope you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, and I regret to bring it up at the risk of reminding you about what was (or still is) the worst thing that has ever happened to you, I can’t not ask about it since it’s a super major important thing, and so the really ridiculous result is that this e-mail now reads, “Hey person I haven’t spoken to in a year or two, I’m excited about achieving the first signs of success and wanted to share it with you, by the way how’s your cancer?” and that is way worse. I wish I could come up with something less lame to say than “it sucks,” as no doubt you have heard more profound descriptions of it, like “worst experience that could ever happen to a person” and “worse than getting fisted by someone holding a sea urchin covered in hydrochloric acid for the rest of your life,” which are all probably totally accurate and saying it “sucks” might downgrade it to phrasing you would use to describe a new Jennifer Aniston movie, but it really does suck a lot and I wouldn’t wish it on Hitler or that person on the subway sitting next to me who has a cold but won’t blow his nose and just keeps sniffing every five seconds for the entire train ride. Basically I hope the cancer business isn’t still happening. I know that with cancer it’s always still happening in the sense of “is it going to come back?” and it’s a fear that probably penetrates your day-to-day life and always will, but I hope that at least maybe it’s not ACTIVELY still happening. That is, I hope that you are only plagued with a crippling lifelong fear and not actual pain and awfulness. Isn’t it nice when you get an e-mail from someone you haven’t seen in a long time and they tell you they hope you are plagued with a crippling lifelong fear? I always look forward to those e-mails, too. You are very brave and I’m sorry that such a shitty thing happened to you, and is hopefully not still happening to you. I mean, I hope you are not dying anymore, or at least, that you are no longer dying at a really scary and painful accelerated pace, but rather are dying more slowly and at a relatively similar pace to everyone else.