Update on my friend Ally
I forgot to tell you yesterday that Ally, who I mentioned last week had the chemo-induced heart failure then, recently, had a stroke, is improving. It sounds like she is going to recover, maybe not fully and it will be slowly, but she is alive and perky. From what I’ve heard, it seems like she’ll have a good life despite it all.
When I went to Tennessee with my breast cancer buddies, it was so amazing to hear everyone’s stories. It really seemed as if each of us had some crazy surgery or chemo story to tell. Something went wrong for everyone. It was sad, of course, that we each have lost so much while being young with many years ahead of us to have to cope with the loss. But it was also heartening to be able to share with those other women. I rarely get that opportunity. Even people who are very close to me, who love me and have lots of compassion for me, don’t always understand what I’m going through.
I guess that is true for everyone in all situations, but it is nice when you find someone you can talk to about what you are experiencing. It was fun to make morbid jokes together that would shock the people who love me and who simply want to push away their fears of me dying or having a recurrence. Yet, down in that giant cabin in the Smoky Mountains, there was a group of us who were able to share these fears and, yes, even laugh about them. We can’t push those fears away. We live them. Each time we feel a funny twitch in a bone or have a headache, we wonder … could this be mets? Sure. It could. Or it might just be a twitch or a headache. But we don’t know and, if it is mets, it doesn’t matter. It’s too late.
It’s hard to imagine we could find humor in that situation, but we did. We laughed about people’s really terrible surgery mishaps and how they were diagnosed. We showed each other our boob work – good and bad. We cried and laughed. We laughed sometimes while we cried. It was good. It was very good.
I got to spend a lot of time with Ally. We both seem to have insomnia, so were always up at the crack of dawn, long before anyone else. We’d make coffee and talk about our lives. She share about her past, her divorce while her brilliant older daughter was about 5 years old. She shared about the person her daughter has become and the struggles she had raising a little genius. It was interesting and helpful. It was really good to develop that relationship with another person, particularly someone who, on top of it all, also dealt with breast cancer like me.
Sometimes I know people wonder why I still seem so caught up in the breast cancer world. Why not move on now that the rough stuff is behind me? I’ve had other friends whose loved ones almost demand they stop associating with other survivors and move on! I haven’t had that experience yet. But I know people wonder and might be concerned for me. This is why I do it. This is why I still maintain and make new friends who are young survivors. They support me. They are lovely, wonderful people. They “get” me in a way that most people can not. My friends from high school “get” me in one way; my friends from college in another. These breast cancer survivors “get” me in a whole other realm and I need that.