Eighteen months ago I messaged a close friend whom I hadn’t spoken to for a while. I wanted to tell her I was expecting a baby. This friend had been amazing throughout my separation and divorce and building a new life, it was time to share this big life event with her.
After the usual congratulations/do you know what you’re having conversation there was a pause. Then a message:
‘This is a difficult subject to talk about but I need to tell you I have breast cancer’.
The world toppled on its’ axis for a moment and I drew a deep breath. I had experienced my beloved aunt go through breast cancer. She didn’t survive. I couldn’t imagine what my friend was going through, 30 years old with 2 young children, a full time job and a horrendous disease. I offered the only thing I could, I asked her to talk to me and promised I would always hold space for her, no matter how difficult her feelings were, she could always bring them to me.
Boy did we talk, some days it was ‘chemo has left me feeling too fragile to talk, I’ll be back when I’m feeling better’. Other days it was full of the joys of life, our children, the wonders (and side effects) of medicine. Most of the time it was just sharing our lives together.
Thanks to the NHS, my friend recovered and got the all clear. We continued to talk about everything in our lives and one day she said something that will stay with me for a very long time, if not forever. She said:
‘The way I see it is having cancer is like a car crash. Yes I had it and it was awful and the recovery was hard but I can choose to live my life by what happened and be a victim of it or I can view it as a car crash, something awful that happened and after a period of recovery I could get back to living my life’.
She chose the latter. We still see each other weekly and every time I have a conversation with her I feel it feeds my soul a little. My friend had a journey which only she could walk. We could all be alongside her but the decisions and choices surrounding treatment were hers alone.
I am so grateful for the times she spent with me, talking about her treatment, helping me understand, all these years later, the choices my aunt had had to make and feeling I understood her better in the process. Without even knowing it, my friend was still giving and enriching my experience whilst fighting a battle of her own.
I’ve learned never to take people for granted and to always show up with the love and kindness my friend showed up with during the hardest time in her life. When things get tough I remind myself of her words ‘It happened, I can live my life by it or I can recover and really live my life’.
May you all be blessed with a friend as wonderful as mine.