lives go on

even when I have cancer

or have had a mastectomy.

A very good friend of mine came over here last night to vent about a personal problem. She called from her cell — 2 rings, then hung up. WHA?! HUH?? So I did the typical nosy friend thing and called her right back. Caller ID is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? She was upset, in a supermarket or convenient store parking lot — I can’t remember which but it’s not vital to the story — and she needed to talk to a friend. She was saying that she was a sucky friend because here I had just had a mastectomy and she had just been on vacation so hadn’t been able to come over yet and was asking me for help.

So far, that doesn’t define “sucky friend” to me. She’s been there for me many times during the many years of our friendship. In waxes-and-wanes ways (oh, the alliteration, yikes!), but that’s how many friendships work when babies and full-time work get in the way. It’s just life. Bottom line, we always knew we could count on each other.

At any rate, I told her to come over, I was fine and would love to see her. So she did. She brought a bottle of wine and shared it with Frank. Ever since I found out that I had tumors in my liver I decided I wouldn’t drink alcohol anymore. Nobody told me I can’t, but I just don’t want to — I kind of feel protective of what I call “my little liver,” not even knowing how big livers actually are. I say to people: “I’m protecting my little liver,” when they ask why I don’t drink anymore. It’s a personal decision that I just feel better about. Go figure. It’s just what I need to do. But I digress.

My friend, C., and I sat outside in the front yard, just shy of the porch light. The night was beautiful and calm. She asked how I was doing and I talked and talked about the surgery, losing a breast and the funnier aspects of “fluff.” She asked about how both Frank and Nate are doing with all of this. She asked about my whole family of origin, as she typically does. She’s very kind-hearted. And then I asked what was going on.

And she talked, and talked, and talked. I listened. I asked some questions, but I really didn’t have answers. I typically don’t in those situations or in many of those situations. I don’t have magic words. I don’t have fixes. I learned that a long time ago, and I have to keep re-learning it — that sometimes the most we can do is be a witness to someone else’s journey, to hold their hands and be there for them during their darkest moments. It’s enough. It’s enough for me in my times of struggle, for someone (or someones) to be a witness to my journey, to my pain.

She kept apologizing for “dumping” on me when I’ve just had a mastectomy. No need for apologies, I as I said to her. I told her that’s what friends are for; I was fine, I was there for her.

I think she finally “got it” when she was leaving and apologizing again and we were hugging and I said something about emotional pain being just as valid as physical pain, and she said, “I love you too.” πŸ™‚

That’s the thing, you know. The hardest part of this hasn’t been the physical pain. The physical pain isn’t fun, don’t get me wrong. But in a contest, I would chose the physical pain over the emotional pain I’ve had any day of the week. The only thing is that sometimes they go together and you can’t separate the two. Because sometimes it’s when I’ve been beaten down physically that I’m at my most fragile emotionally. Physically vulnerable sometimes equals emotionally vulnerable, at least in my experience. Not always, though. At the beginning of my cancer journey, when I was probably at my healthiest physically, that’s when I had some of my very darkest days. Those are the ones that I really wouldn’t want to re-live, although I had to get through those to get to where I am now. I know that I had to suffer that way emotionally to want to do the hard work that has gotten me to the point where I am now — those days made me reach out to God and get much closer to God; they made me reach out to others, like those in my cancer support group; to reach out to friends; and, they made me blog my experience here online. All of those, and more that I’m forgetting at the moment, have helped me gain strength emotionally.

Yes, life — lives, that is — go on, even when I have cancer, even when I’ve had a mastectomy. There is no “pain meter” in my house. No pain olympics. No comparing, ala “my pain is worse than yours.” Her pain was emotional. Mine — well, yes mine is too, but mine is also somewhat physical. I’m also dealing with mine pretty well at the moment. And I’m having so many people act as witnesses to my life, to my pain, who honor me by doing just that. Those witnesses help me get through the days — I’m doing that with increasingly better health, steps toward peace, and even moments of joy. Imagine, moments of joy. Indeed!

God bless you all — all of you who have been/are a witness to my life, my journey. I thank you.

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.
Matthew 18:20

Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.


7 Responses to lives go on

  1. bcjenster says:

    I love this post. It’s great when it’s not necessarily about us for a bit, isn’t it?

  2. whymommy says:

    You are remarkable. I feel so lucky to get to know you through all this.

  3. This a such a great post. Thank you.

  4. imstell says:

    “…sometimes the most we can do is be a witness to someone else’s journey, to hold their hands and be there for them during their darkest moments.”

    Yes. Often times there simply ARE no answers. Bearing witness is a great and selfless gift to give a friend.

    Great post, Judy!

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