After hearing the shocking words, “You have Cancer,” John and I sat there that evening and thought about how lucky I was to have such great friends and family who were going to help see us through these choppy waters. I knew my mom and dad (who happened to be battling his own cancer battle) would be there every step of the way. They stepped right in to help out with my then 6-month old daughter, Maggie Mae, watching her all day and every night while i recovered from surgery. My brothers and sisters rallied, each in their own special ways. My sisters, Molly and Paige, who were in Paris when I was diagnosed, would Skype with me daily to get updates and added levity as we talked about how my “new girls” were going to look great. My brother, Ben and his wife Jennifer, helped us with daily lunches for my boys until the school year was finished and helped shuttle all of my kids to and from school. My brother, Tim, would text me daily to check in on me. I knew my family was going to be our rock!
I also knew my friends were going to be there for me as well. My dear neighbor, Erin, immediately set up a meal schedule and also pitched in taking care of Maggie Mae. Paula, a dear friend, accompanied me to many of the first appointments to help me navigate the medical language. I was so lucky to have a close friend who was a doctor. My neighborhood community set up prayer groups to pray for my swift recovery. The parents at both of my kids schools helped with meals and carpools. I had so much food left at my door/frig, I could have fed an entire army. I guess with four kids, John and I were feeding an army. Many of these meals were delivered by neighbors or parents I barely knew, yet they were moved to make our lives a bit easier, even if it was only by delivering paper plates and napkins so we didn’t have to do dishes. Even my sorority sisters, who had recently reconnected through Facebook, collected money so that Donna could shop for staple items our crew went through monthly (snacks, diapers, baby food, cereal, paper products, laundry detergent, etc.) for six months. Sisterhood is an amazing thing!
Out of this diagnosis, there were a few developments in my friendships that I never anticipated. The first was that so many people who I had lost touch with since high school graduation would rally the moment I posted about my diagnosis on Facebook. One friend from high school, who I happened to friend the week before I was diagnosed, immediately reached out to me to let me know she was an oncologist in New Jersey and could help me out with whatever I needed in making decisions about my treatments. It turns out that Sarada and I hadn’t spoken since graduation, if we even spoke that day since we ran in different friend circles and she was brilliant (hence becoming a doctor), and yet she had been in residency in Boston with my friend Paula. Very small world or Smalltimore we tend to call it here in Baltimore. Never underestimate the power of that “Friends You Might Know” box on Facebook. Friending a long lost friend or even acquaintance just might become very useful in the future.
The other development in my friendships was one that I never anticipated. The friends who I had known for so many years, who I had imagined in those first dark days to be my “go to” friends, I barely heard from. I know that life is busy and some people have a tough time dealing with the cancer word. I’m not really sure what each of their reasons for essentially abandoning me as my toughest challenged awaited me. To this day, I still try to sort out in my mind why they weren’t there for me. I will probably never know. But in a strange way they taught me about what friendship is and how much it means to someone going through a difficult time in their lives. I know that I will be the mother, the sister, the Paula, Erin, or Sarada (well maybe not a doctor), for any of my friends (even those who haven’t been there for me) or family! Friendships are cherished treasures and sometimes hard to come by. Just remember to be “that friend” you always hope to have in tough times. Friendship goes a long way. Perhaps Bruno Mars sang it best…Count On Me!