A previous discussion about inspiration and setting an example provoked my friend Laura to write to me, “If something ever happens to me where I have to dig deep to find that strength that you have found (and shown), I will think of you. Often. And re-read your blog. Often.”
This was the highest compliment and I appreciated those words immensely. Her words got me thinking.
So many of my friends have mothers who’ve had cancer. In college, my two closest friends, Alex and Deb, both had mothers who had breast cancer. Somewhere in that experience was an expectation for them that someday, inevitably, they would have it too.
It was many years before my own mother did. And then right on her heels, so did I. Before Alex and Deb did. And so, like my mother was for me (see “Everyone Needs a Trailbreaker”), I suddenly became the trailbreaker for my best friends.
I’ve gone through some cancer scares with friends and acquaintances over the past three years. I’ve sat in waiting rooms, taken phone calls, written emails, met with women in person. I’ve helped friends, strangers, and friends of friends.
When I was young someone teasingly called me a walking encyclopedia. Somehow it still seems true. My husband only half-jokingly shakes his head when he hears some of the questions people ask me. He sometimes says, “They do know you’re not a doctor, right?”
I know that I’m the first of my friends to have breast cancer. And have it “bad.” The whole nine yards. That experience comes with responsibility. I know that having cancer at 37 means that I will be that resource, that friend, that support system.
In the future, others will need me. Friends will ask me how to help, what to do, what things mean.
There is a lot of pressure coming my way and I think about it already: what if I let them down?
That’s the kind of person I am.
I am already worried not only about getting through my own experience; I’m worried how I can help my friends if their time comes.
And statistically it will.
I’m worried who will be next.
I’m angry someone will be next.
I want to be the lightning rod.
I want to take in on for them.
I want to protect them.
Laura, I want to protect you:
I don’t want you to have to read my blog for strength.
I want you to read it because you want a window into a world you never have experienced. And never will.
That is my greatest hope, my greatest dream.
If I could sleep, that would be my dream:
To keep you all safe.1
- October 6, 2010 [↩]