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I have a friend who was just diagnosed with lung cancer last week. It was a diagnosis that came out of the blue, without rhyme or reason.
Coincidentally, I already had plans to see her this past weekend at the annual Halloween party that she and her husband throw.
To be honest, I thought they were going to cancel the party. When they didn't, I thought that the party might be awkward in light of her diagnosis. Not that I felt awkward about her news--as a cancer survivor, I really get it that other people get cancer and really wanted to have an opportunity to show my support for her. It's just that I know some people who haven't had illness in their lives often get weird around people who are newly diagnosed.
The party was a success, even though it wasn't as well attended as in previous years. The theme this year was Moroccan nights and the spread of Moroccan-inspired food was delicious. I loved how they turned their living room into a tent to give it an authentic Moroccan bazaar atmosphere.
The thing is, the best part of the party was when everyone else left and it was just me, my husband and our friends. I got to have a heart-to-heart with my friend and ask her how she was doing with her diagnosis and all the tests. I got to break that weirdness barrier and have a real conversation with her.
I admit that in my mind, I had prepared an agenda of sorts for our conversation. You see, I wanted to impart a message of hope and understanding to her. I wanted her to embrace that she was already a cancer survivor and that every day she lived past her diagnosis was another day of survival. I wanted her to know that this was going to be a battle and that parts of this journey were going to suck. I wanted her to ignore the statistics about her disease and focus on taking things one step at a time, one piece of news at a time, one test at a time, one feeling at a time.
I also wanted her to know that I wanted to be there for her, however she wanted my support.
It is truly heartbreaking for me when others join the "cancer club." But as a 22 year member, I also feel a responsibility to reach out to fellow cancer survivors, whether newly diagnosed or new to the reality of cancer treatment long term and late effects. I feel a calling to welcome them to the "club" and give them an orientation if they want one.
As much as I want cancer to be a part of my past, clearly it is not done with me. It reminds me of this every time it continues to affect the people in my life. I am not afraid to stand up to cancer, reach out and provide support to people living with it and it's aftermath. As a cancer survivor, I know this is the most important thing I can do.
Please send some healing thoughts to my friend as she gets her complete diagnosis and treatment plan this week.