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Thursday, August 22, 2013

What to Do When You Find Out That One of Your Best Friends Has Cancer

(A Prose Poem)
Cry for a long time. Think about how unfair it is. Think about how much you don’t want your friend to die. Think that you should never say the word “die” in front of her. Try to figure out what you can post on her Facebook wall that isn’t “I don’t want you to die.” Cry some more. Try to think of something funny to help you stop crying. Fail.
Think about how selfish you are. Think about her two kids. Get angry. Think there is no god. Think how a god that is supposed to be Love could make something like this happen to someone as amazing as your friend. Cry some more.
Get up off the couch and finally tell your girlfriend why you have been crying. Hear yourself say the words “R**** has cancer,” as you look out the window at the leaves shaking on the tree and the unusually gray summer sky and think that this image will be forever burned on your retinas as the first time you told someone that R**** is sick. Think again that you don’t want her to die. (She is so young!) Think about how much she has taught you and how she is wise beyond her years. Think about how much she has taught you about living and resolve to do everything possible to help her.
Resolve not to be selfish and make this about you. Recognize that this is her fight. Promise to be there for her. Wonder what “There for her” means in this situation.
Does it mean taking care of her kids when she can’t? Making dinner and bringing it to her house? Driving her to chemo treatments, holding her hand? Making her laugh through the pain? Cleaning up vomit? Worse?
Resolve that it does not matter, promise yourself that you’ll be there for her no matter what it takes, how grizzly it gets.
Go outside. Take deep breaths.
Dig in the dirt. Lift heavy things and throw them around the yard until you are exhausted and sweaty and covered in dirt.
Be grateful that you are healthy. Feel guilty for being healthy. Realize that it’s ridiculous to feel guilty for your own gratitude, promise not to waste any more energy on guilt.
Drink some tea. Care for yourself. Make crepes with Nutella and bananas and bake bread. Eat two servings of each. Wonder if you should bring some to her. Think that you should probably be bringing her green juices and turmeric supplements and an all-raw diet.
Promise yourself that you will learn everything about anti-cancer diets and bring her fresh food every day.
Worry that you should not do too much for her or you’ll make her feel weird. Tell your son about the cancer. Feel bad when he does not know what to say, and assure him through your tears that you were not seeking to be comforted, even though you were. Listen as he sounds relieved and starts piecing together words to process the shock. Words like “Unfortunate. Unfair. Devastating.” Words like, “I’m trying not to make this about me.” You and me both, Son.
Feel grateful that you have a son who has grown into such a sensitive and caring young man. Feel grateful that you have been allowed to see your child grow up. Feel grateful that your two boys are healthy. Feel guilty. (Strike that --no more guilt.)
Hand-sew a lavender eye pillow and think it looks like a third grader made it. Wonder if you should give it to her. Realize she’s a yoga teacher and she probably already has 6 eye pillows. Go to bed and watch tv with your partner. Cry some more.
Lean on your partner. Heavily. Lean on her until she feels like she is going to break, but then remember to care for her too.
The next day at work, Google “What to do when someone you know has cancer.”
Resolve to rally a team of dedicated friends and family to help your friend. Send out an email asking your mutual friends what needs to be done. Receive responses while checking work emails. Find out there is already a task force in place. Thank God for your community.
Wonder who would be on your task force if it was you instead of her. Wonder how many times you will wish it was you instead of her. Regret instantly that thought & try to banish it from your mind. Know it is just the depression talking.
Focus on only having healing, positive thoughts. Realize how ridiculous that is and decide to let all thoughts have their place. Decide you will do everything possible from this day forward to make this a life worth living. Look into doing volunteer work in Africa. Resolve to spend less money on frivolous things so you can start saving up money to go do said volunteer work. Resolve to spend more time with your kids and working towards your goals. Resolve not to waste another day of your life doing something you don’t want to do.
Realize that you are needed right here. Right now. Realize that this is your work, to be present with your friends and to be a mom to your kids and to be a family. Resolve not to waste time on guilt and to remain focused in the present.
Go home, take a shower, cry. Go to meetings and plan fundraisers.

Repeat ad nauseum.

(This poem appears on Rebelle Society. )