Understand that this isn’t about me, even though it can’t help but be about me.
Cool Friend has breast cancer. I haven’t been able to wrap my head around it ever since she called with the news; it just seems impossible that my friend can find herself in the same exact spot I was four years ago.
We have always joked about being sisters. We do look a great deal alike, more so when we were younger, perhaps, with similar hairstyles and the freshness of youth, but the emotional bond of sisterhood has been firmly in place since we met in high school. We may go long periods without talking to each other but that never matters; we always find the time to see each other when I’m in Home State and we always fall right back into the comfortable easiness of dear friends.
I do not want to be sisters in this, however much we find ourselves in similar situations. While still waiting on the genetic testing, it appears that her diagnosis is the same as mine, as is her suggested treatment. That doesn’t mean much, with all the unknowns and variables, but the similarities just keep supporting the bizarre place in which we find ourselves.
I suspect that I’ve been suffering from a level of PTSD since we first talked. How could I not start reliving my own diagnosis, the decision-making, the tumult of telling people? I know what it’s like to find yourself in some disjointed nightmare, where you confidently tell others that you’ll be just fine yet stare into space wondering if this is actually the signature on your death notice. Rationally, we know it’s not; Cool Friend is an intelligent, informed, logical woman and she knows – as did I – that stage 1 cancer isn’t a death sentence. Rationality isn’t always easy to come by when you’re told you have breast cancer.
I hate that she’s swimming in these dark waters. I’m angry at the universe for putting this on her. I had breast cancer; why isn’t that enough for the greedy gods that rule this world? Why does someone I love have to endure this? Why can’t it be enough that I had it?
And, yet, the fact that I did go through this means I actually have the capacity to help my friend, not just offer comfort and support but actually, truly help. We talked tonight about the side effects of surgery and radiation, for example, and I could offer informed information on how the surgery isn’t that hard but radiation wipes you out, that she’ll want to keep working but she won’t have the energy to keep up the pace she’s used to, that she needs to give herself permission to let others take care of her for once.
So, I suppose I can see my life as a roadmap for others, if I want to believe that I’m that important to the world at large. I am glad that I can help Cool Friend, in whatever small way possible; I’m glad that I don’t have to feel completely helpless as she begins her journey with this beast. But I can still be so sad that she has to join me in this part of our sisterhood. I do wish life was better to the people I love.