Cancer is a double-edge sword. While it hurts all the lives it touches, there can be elements of love…but not of the cancer itself.
I met my friend in the oddest way. She was part of the team that terminated my employment. The company I worked for decided to go in a different direction, and I was in the first wave of many to be let go from work. At this point, I still received the one-on-one treatment. Someone from my work told me my services were no longer needed and someone from another company was responsible for escorting me out of the building and later, helping me with my resume and interview skills.
Ironically, just before she escorted me out of the building, she said, “Losing a job is like having a major illness.” This statement did not sit well with me because my departure was on January 31, 2012, and I had just finished my last cancer treatment on November 7, 2011. When I told her why I didn’t like the comparison, we quickly found out that we had both had breast cancer. A friendship was born.
We kept in touch. We did lunches together. She told me when her cancer came back. We had long conversations on the phone. Many times the conversations were about the frustration she was feeling with her medical teams at various hospitals. She was in clinical trials and was also receiving chemo. The left hand didn’t seem to know what the right hand was doing. At no point did she ever complain about the cancer itself.
We continued to get together for lunch, but now she had to tell me when she had enough energy to go out, and we would schedule around those days. We continued to laugh together and she continued to look better than I did. I didn’t see her on her bad days, so I didn’t fully appreciate what she was going through. It didn’t really help that she used her usual line, “It is what it is.” To her, the return of her cancer was just a fact of life and there was no sense in getting upset.
When she was told the cancer had spread to her bones, she looked for the positive. She said at least it hadn’t spread to any vital organs. Unfortunately, it eventually did.
Suddenly, there were no good times to get together for lunch. She was in too much pain and the chemo zapped her energy. Oddly, even though I could tell that the cancer was progressing, it was still a surprise to receive a message from her last Wednesday. She had been admitted to a hospice. She told me it was a surprise to her. She thought she had more time.
Still, she hasn’t complained. Once again, she is treating it as just another fact of life. This became apparent when she contacted me on Messenger while I was at work so she could tell me she had decided to go the celebration of life route and a hat contest might be involved. What a lady. Even while I am sad, she continues to make me laugh and appreciate our relationship.
This morning I received another message from her where she listed some new and exciting side effects from her medication and then finished the message with “Overall good, all things considered.” She even gave me a thumbs up.
Building relationships with other people who have had or currently have cancer gives you the unique opportunity to talk to someone who ‘gets it’ because they know:
These same wonderful people can cause you the most pain. You work to build each other up, to show support, and to create an element of hope. If someone has a recurrence or stops responding to treatment, everyone has to adjust. You are reminded just how unfair cancer can be. You are reminded just how precious life is and that you can’t take it for granted. Life is to be enjoyed.
When I go to see my friend, I will take the hat with me that I will wear at her celebration of life. I don’t want her to miss any opportunity to laugh.
Over 30-years of writing experience, about 10 years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.
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