Better Days: An Open Letter to My Best Friend

Hey, love.

Remember that time we kicked our shoes off to dance and you did the Cha-Cha with stranger man at a local restaurant? Fuzzy, right?

Remember that time I hopped behind the bar at yet another local restaurant and acted like I was Tom Cruise in Cocktail? That one is a little fuzzy too.

Remember that time at the Sarah McLachlan concert when our crew opted to watch the concert from the tv’s at the bar instead of our seats so we wouldn’t fall asleep? So many fuzzy parts there.

Remember all the New Year’s Eve celebrations? Me neither.

Remember the first time we met? Very fuzzy because it seems so long ago.

Remember the time you got the cancer call at Kindergarten pick up? I remember every damn detail.

So many memories with you and yet they’ve all been simplified into two categories now: Before Cancer and After Cancer. Oh, and then there’s the sub-category of Cancer During a Damn Pandemic. Wanna throw my divorce on the pile? Sure, why not? Let’s see how many head-tilts we can rack up in one year.

I’ve stayed fairly quiet on this subject for a couple of reasons. None of them are as important as the following– this wasn’t my story to tell. This is yours. I’m a secondary character in this story. Some might say I have a supporting role. My job was to listen, to learn and to hold you up. Literally hold you up at times. In fact, that was my first job when the call came in. Remember that? The only time I ever remember entering that kind of black tunnel is when I’m about to pass out from seeing too much blood. This time, there was no blood that we could easily clean up and make disappear. Only words like breast, cancer, oncologist, immediately, and options. Words that do the opposite of disappear….they linger on.

I remember picking up our Littles, only in Kindergarten and First Grade at the time. I remember thinking we need to protect them. Don’t let them see us cry. Don’t let them see me holding their Mommy up. Thank God for that rock wall we found to sit on. And thank God for the tree that the kids played in while we sat stunned on said wall. And for all the awful blows we sustained in that short period of time, I will also never forget how quickly your tribe mobilized. I’ve never seen a group of women kick into action faster. In seconds, we had your children squared away through dinner and your husband on his way to take you to the doctor. I remember it all.

You know what else I remember? Your constant grace and perpetual positivity. You were given ample opportunities to throw in the towel and throw your hands in the air. But you didn’t. Instead, you did what you do. You made friends with every single nurse, doctor, and fellow patient. You encouraged others. You raised others up. You became a light in others darkness. Including mine. Thank you for that.

I recently watched a documentary called “Kindness is Contagious.” You know what else I think is contagious? Strength. Remember that time we didn’t know what to do when changing your damn port? We read those directions at least 20 times and acted like we were dismantling a ticking bomb. After we did it, we laughed. Then we cried. HOW did this happen, we asked??? How did we go from laughing over wine to crying over tea and ports??? But we did it. Strength. Strength is the inherent capacity to manifest energy, to endure and to resist. We had strength. YOU have strength.

You had a lumpectomy only to find out that it spread. You had chemo. You had a double mastectomy. You had radiation. Then you had your ovaries removed and reconstructive surgery in a double dose. You did 95% of this during a pandemic which meant only your mom went with you to chemo and nobody was allowed in the hospital for your surgeries. You did ALL of that. And you were still there to support me when I needed you most. Those who know you well probably would never describe you as a quiet wallflower, but I’ll tell you what, you exude a quiet, admirable courage that is unmatched by any other person I have ever met.

Remember that time we shaved your head? Is it weird that I remember that as a great day? You went into that salon like a boss, multiple wigs in hand, one chemo behind you and guns a-blazing. And I’ll be damned, I’ve never seen a more beautiful version of you. Here’s the thing. Cancer made you shave your hair off but it also shaved away all our superficial layers. It stripped us down to reveal what lies beneath. It showed us what really matters.

We’ve known our friendship was something special from the start. But I’d like to do something that most people don’t often do–I’d like to thank cancer for making me realize what true friendship is. We’ve seen each other at our best and at our worst, at our strongest and at our weakest. We have delivered brutal truths to one another, listened when maybe we didn’t want to and comforted one another on the loneliest of days. We have laughed so hard, we cried. We have cried so hard, we laughed. I remember all of that.

Of all the things we weren’t sure of this past year and a half, I know at least one thing to be true. Better days are most certainly ahead. So cheers to you, cheers to us and let’s never forget how extraordinary our friendship is.

Now let’s go sort through pictures of tattooed nipples and do what best friends do.

xoxo

Me.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel
Keep your eyes on the road ahead
But if you’re feeling lost in the night
It’s okay to cry
Just as long as you hold your head

‘Cause we’re on our way to better
Better’s ahead, better’s ahead
It get’s worse ‘fore it gets better
But better’s ahead, better’s ahead
Better days are comin’

I know you’ve been kicked down
Slept on, let down, faith gone
Waited for too long for something to lean on
You feel weak, just be strong
Deep breath, stay calm
If you just press on, press on, press on

You gon’ see there’s a light at the end of the tunnel
Keep your eyes on the road ahead
And if you’re feelin’ lost in the night
It’s okay to cry
Just as long as you hold your head

‘Cause we’re on our way to better
Better’s ahead, better’s ahead
It get’s worse ‘fore it gets better
But better’s ahead, better’s ahead
Better days are comin’

I know you feel left out and stepped on
Keep goin’, keep goin’
Shine bright, don’t dim yours for no one
Keep goin’ higher, and higher and higher and higher


Better days are comin’


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