Monday, June 6, 2016

I Love You Lauren

I've known you less than two years. In that time, you have become not just my friend, but my family. I believe we were destined to meet, and I don't even believe in destiny. If I did believe in destiny, it would be a moving target that can change at any moment with different variables. But you… You were meant to be in my life. 

I knew right away that we would hit it off. You're so beautiful, I can't put words to it. Your smile lights up anyone who sees it. I've watched you soften the hardest of hearts. People are drawn to you. And I can see why. Just look at you. 

Stunning. An absolute beauty. The green in your eyes has the same hope as the first leaves of spring, bringing life back into the trees. You have the personality to match, too. You acknowledge the reality of the world around you, you take action when needed, but you're also incredibly gifted at finding the silver lining in the suckiest of situations. I just wish you didn't have to look for the silver lining so often.

The time that we met to when you got diagnosed could be measured in months, but you could also do it in weeks. It was not long. You had beat it once before, and now the cancer returned in a scarier way than it was the first time. I didn't know you when you battled it the first time, but you told me that you did it as a full-time working mom with two preschool aged children. I marveled at that before anyone discovered the cancer had come back. 

People use stupid words like "journey" or "life-change" to describe cancer, and honestly I can't think of accurate ones to describe the process, but I hate these words anyway. 

I've wanted to write about you for a while now for two reasons 1) I want cyberspace to know just how much I adore you and how wonderful you are AND 2) writing is how I deal with my own emotions. It's the only way I can accurately know and verbalize what I feel and try to find sense or a lesson. There is no sense to be had in a senseless situation like cancer, and the words "journey" or "life change" sound trite. And kind of offensive, to be honest. They make it sound like it's something glorious or exciting. Obviously, nothing about cancer is glorious or exciting, and no one wants to go on that journey. I don't know what word I would use to describe the cancer, but I know these words aren't it.

I think you could say that we were one of those friendships that got close quickly, but I never knew how close we'd get. 

I've had a window into your life dealing with cancer and other things a while now {nope--still not calling it a journey!} You're obviously the one who is living with it, but I'm so much more invested than looking through the window at this point. I'm walking right alongside you, and I often wish I could take on your suffering so you didn't have to. 

Like I said, I wanted to write about you for a while now. If I can be completely honest: I've avoided writing about you, and I write about EVERYTHING. If it's not on this blog, it's saved in a word doc or scribbled in a journal somewhere. But I've written absolutely nothing about your disease. I do talk about how much I love you, but you will find no mention of the words "cancer" or "chemo" or any of the other words I wish weren't a part of your life. Don't take this the wrong way, it's not that these things aren't a priority to me. I have avoided writing about this because it shatters my heart. It's too raw. Too real. And to be honest, the fact that there are no answers for you and no one can figure this out flat out pisses me off. A medical mystery has a proper place, and it's on Grey's Anatomy. I've been to so many appointments with you where there are so many questions with no answers. 

When my grandma got sick with cancer, she had been a long time smoker. I had a target to aim my anger at: cigarettes. The tobacco industry. The Marlboro man. I'm ashamed to say I was even frustrated with her for not quitting them sooner. With you, YOU DIDN'T DO ANYTHING to bring this on. There's no industry to blame. You lost your mom to this, and now you have it too. FOR NO REASON. It sucks.

I've spent countless nights with these questions bouncing off one another in my head like bumper cars at the fair. One crashes into another, and that causes a crash into another, and I google a lot of medical terminology I do not understand at 2am. More of these questions don't have answers than the ones that do, and if the uncertainty grates on me, I know they have to be driving you insane. I've had questions for you like: What stage? Where is it? Is it growing? What type of treatment will you get? What treatment will they switch you to because that one is no longer effective? Why are your side effects not presenting typically? Why do you have all these weird symptoms no one can explain? How is your marriage? How are the kids handling it? How are you juggling therapy appointments for your autistic son with your own appointments? Am I what you need right now? Does my friendship give you the kind of support you need? You know you can tell me anything, right? What do you need? How can I help you? What are your questions? 

I could go on with my questions for days, and I'm sure you could too. But your questions are usually heavier than mine, except when you ask about sending out late thank you notes to people when they've done something nice for you {no ma'am--you have a full plate and you absolutely get a pass on this one}. I may not have answers, but I do not want you asking these questions alone. I hope I can be the friend that you know is ALWAYS here to listen to your questions. Something told me not to go to sleep last night. I was really tired, but some vague, weird premonition told me to stay awake. At 1am, I found out why. You texted me with a whole list of scary questions for your appointment today. You were awake and alone, you googled and some horrifically terrifying things popped up in your search results. You needed to list all the things you were afraid of, and all of the worst questions you've had in this process happened last night. That list broke my heart, scared me, and I was devastated that these are the things that must run through your mind every single day. THANK GOD the news your doctor delivered wasn't the scary stuff we were googling last night. Today you got good news that it wasn't the scary scenario we imagined. I had a long silent moment sitting in my driveway crying tears of joy about that. 

We started out being in this married small group together {or small weekly Bible study if that's a more familiar term to my readers}.

But now we are so much more invested in each other's lives than a weekly check in. There's absolutely nothing we don't talk about. There's no topic off limits. We share housekeeping tips and exchange parental anecdotes. When one of us gets in a fight with our husband, the other one is there to talk her down off the ledge. We encourage forgiveness and love. We don't bash our men, we support each other's marriages. I have learned so much from you. I have become a better wife. A better mom. A better human. We've also talked about the most important of issues: fashion. We've shared where we bought new outfits, we've shared products we have our eyes on, we could talk about new shoes and cute purses all day. We've swooned in Pottery Barn over all the $5,000 furniture we decided wasn't worth it because our kids would destroy within a week. We've recapped every episode of the Bachelorette. We just get each other. I get you, and you get me. 

You have the cutest little family. You're so great with them, even though you're always thinking you're screwing it all up. By the way: all the best wives/moms question and try to improve themselves like you do. Your kiddos are cuddly with you for a reason. You're a fantastic mom. The love your husband has for you is palpable to me. 

You tell me what you're craving when we set lunch dates because you found a food that doesn't make you barf and actually tastes good, in spite of what chemo has done to your tastebuds. You always name a restaurant almost apologetically like I may not want to go there, but really, I'm just thrilled to have time with you. Everyone is thrilled to spend time with you.

We've talked about ports and chemo, and our text exchanges have included things like "biopsy" and "tumor markers" and "incurable" and "neuropathy" and "pain" and "PET scan" and "MRI" and "life expectancy". You have said to me "I don't want to use this walker--I'm only in my thirties". I have cried because I wish there was more I could do about that--I've playfully suggested bedazzling it, but I know that won't help. I've sent you memes that say "F*** CANCER!" On the worst days when you felt defeated, I have said to you "You don't suck. Cancer sucks." I said that because it's true. YOU DON'T SUCK. CANCER SUCKS.

I've had some of my hardest laughs sitting across from you while you're getting chemo. When we went to the pool with our families last week, you told me how insecure you sometimes feel in a bathing suit now. Since your mastectomy, you feel "lop-sided". That isn't what I see when I look at you. I see a shape-shifting super hero wounded from an enemy she defeated before. I see power. I see beauty. I see someone who doesn't let cancer kick her butt. Even if the cancer is growing, you don't sit on the couch feeling sorry for yourself. You get up and breathe life into people. If you were in a comic book, your character would be called "Cancer-Slayer". Whether you end up beating this cancer or not, I will always say you slay it because you have a zest for life and you REFUSE to let cancer take from it. I bear witness to the fact that you will not let this crapstorm stop you from having fun, finding joy, and making the best out of life. You chase goodness in spite of something that has STOLEN so much good from you. 

Some friends are the type you laugh with, some friends are the type you pray with, some friends are the type you call when you need a favor, some friends are the type you call for advice, and you are ALL of those things to me. In fact, while you've been dealing with the mountain of stuff you're dealing with, you were at a conference listening to a speaker talk about the stuff I struggle with. A lot of people would have just recommended that I read her book, but you bought it for me. 

You are facing a Goliath of a problem right now, but you listen to my junk. You help me when I need it. You show up for me. You are dealing with a crisis that is so much bigger than what most people are dealing with, but you show up for people in the midst of their crises. You not only show up, you dive right in. You volunteer to bring dinner to people when people should be bringing dinner to you. You help so many in precious acts of service. You are a person who goes above and beyond for people. You sacrifice time, money, or whatever you have to offer for people who haven't even asked you to. Light and love radiate from you. You have injected my life with so much light and love that I feel like I could never repay you. You ma'am, have a servant's heart and you instinctively wash people's feet. Your love for Jesus makes you SHINE. Magazines might declare what is beautiful with cosmetics, young thin models, and plastic surgery... but you prove to the world that a woman's beauty is really carved out from inside her heart. I can only hope that I am as good a friend to you as you've been to me. Being your friend is my great honor. I love you Lauren. 

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