To Have a Friend, You Must Be a Friend

I just received some wonderful news…depending on how you look at it. A close friend of mine has just learned that she will have an unexpected 6-week reprieve before her second round of chemo treatments begin for an advanced-stage ovarian cancer that was not completely arrested by the first round of treatments.

She/we had been expecting much worse news: that she would have to begin the new treatments following close on the heels of her last treatments leaving her no time to recover her strength or attend to her personal life. This six-week window is a tremendous gift. Now she can fly to California to spend some time with her beloved daughter and grandchildren for a couple of weeks in an apartment by the sea before she must return home to resume treatments.

When you have a really serious cancer, this constitutes good news. Every day you are not in treatment is cherished; any reprieve from treatment is a blessing. Having had a late-stage cancer myself in the past year, and being currently in remission, I speak from personal experience. There is no doubt that having cancer can completely change one’s perspective on life.

Before cancer I thought friendship meant being close to several people over a long period of time, even though they might be a continent away. It meant sharing a history together and supporting each other through the bad times and celebrating the good ones.

Now there is a whole new dimension to friendship for me. This past year, upon recovering from my own cancer, I learned shortly thereafter that the friend discussed earlier had suddenly been diagnosed with a late-stage ovarian cancer. I also learned that a high-school friend I had reconnected with last year at our 50th high-school reunion was having a recurrence of cancer as well.

I have been working hard at being a good friend to each of them since my own recovery. There is an unquestionable kinship amongst cancer survivors that I, too, have experienced. I want to encourage them that to know they have more living to do, while supporting them through the ups and downs of their own cancer journies.

This is the hardest I’ve ever worked at friendship. It is time-consuming, requires focus and a lot of unselfishness. I am not trying to say I am a hero by any measure. I just want to share what I have learned this past year. A long-term friendship is not easy to maintain even in the best of times but there is give and take. This new definition of friendship is all about giving, and giving some more…with no expectations whatsoever. I continue learning every single day.

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10 thoughts on “To Have a Friend, You Must Be a Friend”

  1. What a beautiful life lesson you have shared. Your writing is so positive about a difficult topic, and I am thankful for your example. I have felt so beaten down by problems when I need to focus on what I should be learning from them. Congratulations on recovery and what lucky friends you have to have a friend like you to offer support.

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    1. I was quite depressed for a while following my treatments. It was a friend who suggested I begin blogging who made it possible for my recovery to begin. Try something new and different when you feel “beaten down”; it may help to change your perspective. Thanks for your warm response.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful reflections on friendship and on how your own definition of friendship has evolved through your life experiences. I wish you and your friend the best. Your words will stay with me today.

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  3. I have seen the generosity of cancer survivors. Having your life threatened does seem to make you a member of a club that you would have never joined voluntarily but once a member of that club the other members bring a richness to your soul that you didn’t know was there. I hope I make sense.

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    1. “Generosity of cancer survivors” and “bring a richness to your soul” are two wonderful phrases you use that encapsulate what I was attempting to convey. Thank you for being so understanding and supportive.

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  4. What you write here is very important. I was doing a Bible study about what texting and Facebook are doing to “friendship.” Instead of texting, pick up the phone. Instead of posting a picture on Facebook, stop by for a visit. But you are so accurate when you share that it takes more time and effort to do this. But friendship is necessary in life and worth this extra effort. Kudos to you for realizing this and investing in your friendships.

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