I Didn't Know 'Best Friends Forever" Didn't Include During Cancer
When you graduate from college or high school, you think that you are going to stay best friends with your friends forever, "no matter the distance, marriage, kids or job. We will always be there for each other." But when the concept of "forever" is challenged by cancer, not only is your life changed - but so is the meaning of “best friends forever”.
I was diagnosed with cancer at age 28, while I was in the best shape of my life and living in a city with my best friends. I had youth, strength and support on my side. But there was no road map for any part of the journey - from how to handle chemo to friendship to how to tell my family. I lived day by day and made the maps as I went. Friendship should have been the one road map that I could have counted on every day, even if the route wasn't written down. There was the promise of "We will always be there for each other", after all. But I learned that sometimes that promise falls short.
On the map, friendship is a two way street. When you are on the cancer journey, friendship becomes a two way street that is under construction and has only the left lane open and once in awhile, the right lane lets a few cars through.
When you are first diagnosed, you have a new car feel and smell. Everyone wants to help, be part of the cancer activities, like a hair cutting party. But once the new car smell fades, so do the people. Even if you state upfront what your needs are, friends go back to their lives and the fact that you have cancer slowly becomes a distant memory. When you’re dealing with cancer, the last thing you want is to be responsible for making plans to hang out. Through treatment, you are tired of decision making, scheduling, organizing activities and listening to why or why not someone wants to do something.
Even though I tried my best to have faith in the words “I'll take you to chemo” or “I promise I'll be there,” I knew that when they were spoken, they were just words that sounded right to say in the moment. Most of the promises that were tossed out sounded good at the time but saying the right thing and doing the right thing are different.
These empty words and promises are like the weather. In the morning, it's perfectly sunny but as the day progresses, the clouds move in. By night time, there is a storm. I was hopeful that it was going to be a sunny day but over time, the clouds rolled in and I was left standing out in a thunderstorm. But, just when it was about to hail, some other people stepped up and got me to shelter. In the shelter, I was able to regroup, look back and assess what happened.
I don't blame anyone for what happened along my journey-there are lessons learned. The reality is, the moment you get diagnosed with cancer, your life changes. Small complaints, superficial conversations, drama, catering to whining, judgments, having to please everyone, and negativity become a thing of the past. Your priorities in life change and you learn to stop pushing feelings aside just to please people.
Cancer taught me to embrace and be comfortable with myself and learn not to judge others. I yearn for deep, meaningful conversations that challenge the way I think about life and the world. Every second of the day, I'm in charge of writing the book about my life, carefully choosing the words that illustrate the most honest, real version of myself. Right now the writing goes day by day with no idea how many pages and chapters lie ahead of me. I don't know what the future holds-the pages are blank and anything is possible. I just know that I still need more time to figure out me, what I want and the world around me.
How did your friendships change after cancer? Share your experience in the comments below.