The bonds of cancer

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I was very ambivalent about being introduced to other women with the same disease. I wanted to find people I could relate to, yet each situation is also highly individual. Not to mention, most women with breast cancer are considerably older than I am and my set of issues are largely different from theirs.

I was also cautious of making “cancer friends”, as I knew it could mean potential heartbreak. When you and a friend both have cancer, there is always the possibility that one of you might make it, and one of you might not. Or both of you might, both of you might not. It’s entirely unpredictable. I worried about creating friendships where I would be forced to deal with cancer again and again, or compare my disease to someone else’s.

Eventually though, you realize that cancer is majorly lonely and that all your best friends have zero idea what you are going through, as much as they might try to understand and connect. Eventually you need to find others who have been through what you have, and truly understand all the emotions that come with cancer, and after cancer.

Awhile back, I connected with another young woman named Naomi, through my blog. She is a bit older than I am, but in her 30’s, and still very young in breast cancer terms. She has a husband and a little boy, and I learned that we were both at similar phases of our treatment, and being treated at the same hospital.

We bonded over our shitty luck and became friends quite quickly. It is easy to connect with someone when you’re both bald and have had your breasts removed and your life has become batshit crazy. Naomi is a beautiful, kind and generous person and I’m so grateful that we found each other, despite the reason.

Unfortunately, very recently, Naomi learned that her breast cancer had made its way up into her brain, forming another tumor that was causing her headaches. Of course, this was devastating news to hear. We had both just finished up with the worst of our treatment and wanted to celebrate together. This wasn’t supposed to happen, and definitely not so soon. But as I’ve said before, cancer doesn’t really care what you have planned, it just has a mind of its own. And Naomi’s cancer is a particularly nasty beeyotch who clearly needs to be put in its place.

When Naomi called to tell me her cancer had metastasized, she was immediately concerned with my emotional well-being and how that type of news might affect me personally. This is an example of how totally selfless and awesome Naomi is.

Last week, Naomi had brain surgery to remove her tumor and she of course rocked it like a rockstar, because that’s how us cancer galz roll. And now she has another scar to add to the lot, although this one is particularly bad-ass. Once you have staples in your head, you’re pretty much cooler than anyone else around.

I visited her in the hospital a couple times this week. Obviously this was not an easy task. Having cancer friends is complicated for this very reason. I am painfully aware that it could just as easily have been me lying in that bed. I know that that could be my future. A tumor in the brain, or bones, or lungs, or liver. All within the realm of possibility. This is what I have to wake up and face, every day. Every single day. And seeing my friend have to go through it is a pretty harsh reminder of the beast that is breast cancer and the giant question mark that is my future.

But with all that said, and the many emotions I have been forced to confront, I have no regrets over making cancer friends. Naomi popped into my life during a time where I really needed her. And now she needs me again, so I will be there. It is as simple as that. She is no longer just a cancer friend, she is a real friend and a part of my life. I will do what I can to ease her troubles, and I will be a shoulder to lean on. I will cry with her when things get tough and curse cancer for continually picking on us nice guys. And I will celebrate all of the good moments along with her, because I know there are still many to come.

Watch your step, cancer. You are totally messing with the wrong bitches.



13 thoughts on “The bonds of cancer

  1. Thank you for this , Steph. I’m glad we can support and inspire each other. I have this vision of us sitting and having lunch as old ladies and one of us says, “Remember that time we had cancer. WTF, universe?” And then we’ll launch into a story about some other new, post-cancer, fun adventure we have. Cancer may have brought us together but it won’t define our friendship. You are the best. Much, much love!

    1. I love your vision… hey, you already have a cane, and I have a generally old lady/crotchety attitude about most things, so I think we’re well on our way! πŸ™‚

  2. Oops !! This 50 yr old mind of mine is not tech savvy and sent my previous msg before I was ready ! I just wanted to say thank you ! To express how wonderful it is , that you are putting everything out there for all to read , which can’t be an easy thing to do ! You make me personally feel , uplifted , strengthened and not alone ….. You should smile at the thought if how many women you have helped ! I wish the very best for you Hugs …. And stay strong xo

    Sent from my iPod

  3. You continue to “nail ” how I am feeling in every situation . Although I am 50 years young ( mind like a 17 yr old ! ) And have Non-hodgkins lymphoma. My feelings mirror yours as you go through this journey . I applaud your strength , your tenacity and your humour . My treatment started 21/2 years ago ! Yes years !! My initial lose my hair chemo was in June 2011 every 3 weeks for 7 sessions . Then in 2012 I started what they call rituximab maintenance .. 1 session every 3 months for 2 years ! My hair is long now and unruly but I can’t bring myself to cut it …. It has become a thing with me ! Every post I read from you , I could be writing myself ! My emotions and feelings in every subject seem to mirror yours .

    Sent from my iPod

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