Two hands holding each other with sunlight behind them

Battling Cancer With A Loved One

My diagnosis in October of 2017 -- much like many came as an incidental finding and a major shock to me and those around me -- family, friends, old college roommates, colleagues and the list goes on.

One friend in particular. She and I served together on the local community theatre board and the casting committee for auditions. I worked in social services and she was a family attorney. We became fast friends. We had weekly Waffle House $5 menu meets to catch up and chat.

At one of those meetings, she mentioned to me that she noticed a lump in her breast and was concerned about it. She said she had not told her husband but felt like she needed to get it checked out. I encouraged her to go to the doctor and that she would feel so much better knowing what was going on.

My friend received heavy news...

Her life as an attorney didn’t leave much room during the week to just run to the doctor especially when court dates have been planned for months in advance. She didn’t go right away. It wasn’t until I had a confirmed lung cancer diagnosis that she understood the severity of her situation and finally went to the doctor. She said that if I could have lung cancer at 36 with absolutely no genetic connection or lifestyle to blame, that her situation could very well be serious.

She made her appointment and was seen by the doctor within a day. The doctor was very concerned and said this was almost textbook, but that a benign cyst couldn’t be ruled out. They sent her immediately to have a biopsy that same day. Within four days of my diagnosis, my friend also heard those daunting words.

We become Warrior Sisters that day

I never want anyone to hear those words, but I cannot tell you the utter sense of relief that came over me. I wasn’t excited that she had cancer by any means, but I received a strange disheartening comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone. She cried when I told her my diagnosis and I cried when she told me. It was a surreal roller coaster of emotions.

I named us Warrior Sisters that day. I told her that we were going to fight and we were going to fight for each other no matter how hard it got. I knew then that God had a purpose in bringing us together.

There have been incredible ups and terrible downs

At almost three years to the day, she’s in the biggest fight of her life. She closed her law firm recently and is literally fighting every moment of each day just to be comfortable. Her active cancer was gone with her first round of treatment. We celebrated! We danced! We fellowshipped. She beat this thing.

She went to the doctor for what she thought was a kidney stone only to learn that the cancer was in her spine and had fractured a vertebra. This kicked off many new symptoms, many new mutations, and ultimately metastasis all over her body including hip, lung, and liver.

The guilt keeps creeping into my thoughts

My cancer journey hasn’t looked anything like that. I have had minor setbacks here and there, but nothing compared to her journey and I feel so guilty. I was supposed to help her fight and I am completely helpless. We were supposed to do this together and I live most days as normal as possible and without pain. I wish that I could do anything to take it all away, but I am literally helpless. I try not to take burden on, but it feels like end-stage and it happened so quickly.

I can’t help but also selfishly wonder when that will be me. I know that I must keep embracing the good days before they are quickly fleeting, but there’s the other side of this thing that really stings.

To those who are grieving...you are not alone

Many of you here have lost friends within this community as well as family members and for that, I am truly sorry. Cancer is so unfair. Once you hear those words, you don’t ever get over even if in remission. If only we could just find a cure, this world would be full of so many great people that have gone on before us.

I understand that part of living is dying, but must we have so much suffering among our loved ones? It’s so difficult to watch. I have said so many times that I would rather have cancer than watch someone walk through it. I am finding it to be more and more true as I have watched my sweet friend suffer for a solid eight months. Both, however, are so very difficult.

If you are grieving loss today, know that you are not alone. It is permissible to feel everything that you are feeling from utter sadness to anger, to extreme grief, and everything we process.

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