This post is dedicated to my friends and family.
I have always insisted that it is easier to be the patient with cancer (the bug) than it is to be the supporter (the windshield).
My job is simple – it is to do everything I can to get better. And I am doing that. What I ¨can¨do is rest, eat well, exercise, and use my support systems to help the chemo-therapy do its job. What more can I do?
My friends and family, on the other hand have no power at all to do anything. They are, essentially, powerless. And what is worse, they are left to be the ones who have to bad news, or frightening news and have to worry about being strong for me. They are the windshield that is ¨slimed¨ by me.
I remember when a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with skin cancer. I got the news while standing in line at American Eagle with my daughter. We were buying her a pair of jeans. I had to leave the store and desperately searched for somewhere where I was able to burst into tears. Malls are not conducive to that kind of behaviour – in fact, I guess it is just not encouraged. I could barely talk. My daughter ran after me asking what was wrong. I had to get her to read the note from my friend as I just could not get through it without tears streaming. It was not until we got home when I could pull myself together enough to tell Kevin.
I could not call her. I could not face her news. I waited for an up-date. I was a mess.
Finally, she called me. I felt like a jerk. She wondered what had happened to me and if everything was okay? Imagine. She, the one with cancer, was worried about me! I told her I had not called because I did not know what to say – and I did not think I could talk without crying. She said, ¨Stacey, that is what friends do – we cry together. Do you not think I have cried? I have – and you were no where in sight. I wondered if I had hurt you – and maybe should not have told you via text message?¨ Good God. She was right. I did not have to hide my emotions from her – I could not anyhow. Well, we sure made up for lost time on the phone that night. It was a spectacle. And I did not care! By the end of the call we both felt better…especially me.
I learned my lesson that as a friend, I do not have to be perfect and I can be human. And as long as I am human, I am a friend.
Cancer is a bitch. It can chew a person up and spit them out for lunch. It can challenge the strongest person. It can drive wedges between families and friends and leave them alone and beaten. It can leave you breathless and questioning the very essence and nature of your own existence. It can also teach you to appreciate what you have and that life is fragile. It can teach you to take nothing for granted. And just when you think you have it licked, it can come back for another round. But it is what it is – and it is how we deal with cancer, in the end, that is the true measure of courage, love, and faith.
Friendship is salvation. Sometimes there are givers and sometimes there are takers. Sometimes it is more difficult to be the one on the side-lines offering compassion than it is to be the one in the trenches doing the work of healing. There truly is a time for everything. There is a time to laugh and a time to cry, a time to love and a time to be loved. There is a time to be the teacher and a time to be the student. Throughout time, however, friendship can endure. It can endure silence and noise. There are times when quiet contemplation is enough. No words need to be said – when no words can be said.
With my friend, I was the windshield. I was slimed. And it was tough – I wore her illness as my own but no matter what I did – could not wipe it away.
I am now the bug. I have slimed my friends and family. There is nothing I can do other than try to put myself back together again. My role is easy since I have no choices other than to maintain my will to live. And I want to live. There are so many people I have to help in my life-time yet. I want to see my children grow and have children – to be there for them when they need me. I want my husband and I to grow old together and to continue to ¨live¨through life laughing and crying with each other.
No matter what I do, I am the bug. And no matter what my friends and family do, they are the windshield.
What matters more than that relationship now, is finding the road that will help my friends to navigate through the mess.
From the bottom of my heart – thanks to my friends and family for being there!