January 30th, 2020
| Fighter: Colon and Rectal Cancer
Cancer is ugly. Cancer sucks. Cancer makes you feel bad all the time. Cancer is the worst. Cancer sucks the life out of you. Cancer can take your life. Cancer can also be a blessing. You can learn so many lessons you would not have otherwise. I have always had a solid group of people I was close to for support and a shoulder to cry on when I needed it. What I can tell you that I learned is more about people in general than about myself.
Of course, I learned a lot about myself and the boundaries that I have to have and want for myself (I am a bit of a pushover, so those are hard). This article is really about what I learned to lose, and how I am (trying) to cope with and accept it. Honestly, knowing that I can die at any time bothers me less than some of the tragic realizations I have come to. Seriously – sometimes you learn things that just do not make sense, but you have to come to terms with them to be able to move on, sleep at night and not dwell on something you have no control over. And I can tell you that it FUCKING sucks.
So I have this friend (well ex-friend now I guess) that I used to be super-duper awesomely close with. Like so close. It is hard to explain how much time we spent together, talking, studying, having fun, going for meals, watching movies, talking about how bright our futures were – we did it all. I used to see this person about 5 days a week, and if we did not see each other in person, we texted or called each other. To put it simply, we were pretty tight. Oh right, sorry, I almost forgot to give this person a name, let’s call him "Noodles" (he really likes pasta).
When I told this friend I had cancer, everything was good, he told me WE would get through this. I thought I could count on this person, through thick and thin and he seemed to be in it for the long haul. Shit, he was the executor to my living will, we were VERY close. He was my best friend. Everyone around us always said that we looked inseparable. I have some of the fondest memories with Noodles. Fast forward about two months, and things started to get rocky. He started to pull away, wouldn’t answer my texts, and took days to call me back which was not characteristic of him. Some personal things got in the way with him, but we always talked about and got through them. We coached each other. Except this time it was different. He told me that it was "none of my business" and stopped telling me about the situation affecting him the most. This affected me too because he changed so much as a person. He just would not talk. I approached him about this and he said that everything was fine and that we were “still as good as ever”. He assured me that my cancer was not going to change anything between us. I believed him.
Now, in November things got bad. I was sick a lot of the time and was in and out of the hospital many, many times. I called him in hopes that he could pick me up or bring me to the hospital because I could not drive myself. He never responded, never acknowledged the messages and said he did not get the calls. He told me to ask someone else for help and that he does not check his phone often. Hmm, this was not like Noodles at all – he used to phone me after two hours of not responding to see if I was okay, but when I reached out to him, nothing – he would not even respond.
The second week of November came around and Noodles came over and we were supposed to play board games – fun! However, we never even opened a deck of cards before he sat beside me and held my hands. I think he tried to let me down gently, but I knew what was coming. He flat out told me that he could not be the friend that I wanted him to be, and that he could not be there for me at all anymore. Everything that we had worked up with each other just fell apart. He told me that it was best if we never talked again, and well, stuck to that verdict. I needed someone who I was close with more than ever, and this guy I called my best friend just told me that he did not want to communicate with me anymore and was ready to leave my house for good. I asked him if he would ever reply to my messages if I reached out, and he said “no, I do not think so”. I told him he would not even know if I passed and he said “I guess not”.
I was a wreck – this stung worse than salt in a wound with lime juice squirted inside. This was the worst pain that I ever felt. I have constant stomach pains and discomfort that feels like someone is stabbing me, but this – this conversation and losing Noodles hurt more than any pain I have ever felt in my entire life, combined. I cried, and I cried and I cried some more. I did not sleep for over a week. I lay in bed thinking where things went so wrong. Honestly, still to this day, I am replaying conversations in my head over and over again to try and make sense of it. How someone you are so close to can just say that they are done with you and did not even want to know if you died. This still fucks me up every single day.
So when people say that there are so many people around you that care for you, I wholeheartedly agree – I have met some amazing people and truly saw who is there for me in the good and the bad times. But something like this is the ugly truth of cancer. Cancer can kill you physically, but also emotionally. I know I will be okay – but it is the principle of it all that I think will always haunt me. From my short time in the cancer community, I have heard some similar stories, but in my experience when I share my story, people are more shocked than anything. I guess this is just how things work, you win some and you lose some. Someone you think you are amazingly close to can be the first person who closes the open door behind you and never looks back. I am in no way sharing this to shame the person – I think they know their stance on the story and what happened. I am sharing this to show people that even when you see all these amazing support systems in place, and that cancer can bring people closer together like you never imagined, there is the ugly truth that you can also lose people you thought would always be around at the absolute worst point in your life.
I think life is all about forgiveness and reconciliation. I do forgive Noodles for what happened regardless of how much pain it caused me or how much it still hurts – he was doing what he thought was best at the time and I cannot be angry for the rest of my life at that. But what I can do is control the narrative going forward and realize my own worth and stand up for myself. This is the kind of person I know I do not want in my personal life again. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never talk to Noodles again, and that hurts so much. However, I have realized that sometimes you just have to let the toxic people go regardless of how much it hurts to do so. Some people are just not who you thought they were regardless of all the things they tell you.
So yes, Cancer can be something that brings so many good people in your life, and prayers and happiness and good vibes which I am all here for, but what people do not see and I think do not understand is that it can be some of the ugliest shit you have ever seen. Who expects your best friend to leave you at such a vulnerable time? Yeah I did not think so either, but it is just the reality of it all. The support you have is not always sunshine and rainbows, sometimes it is a rumbling thunderstorm under which you have no cover.
Stay humble, tell people you love them whenever possible and be kind to each other always.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.
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The first time Ryan heard cancer was when he found out a close family friend had it. Ryan was young and did not know what it even meant. Over the years, he has come to realize that cancer runs in both sides of his extended family and affects the lives of so many people he loves. Ryan is here as a fighter to provide support and connect with people going through similar experiences. Ryan was a 21 year old university student just on the verge of graduation when he found out that he had colon cancer.