“That’s What Friends Are For…”

My life really did drastically change after being diagnosed with breast cancer.  At first it was a battle.  Now, it’s a reality of my life.  Check ups. Evaluations. Medications. Side effects.  Residual pain. Coping.  Moving on.  I understand now that my life will always be a little different than it used to be.

Maybe that’s what Dr. Goulet was trying to get me to understand.  It’s a sobering revelation.

I’m starting to “get back out” among friends and colleagues.   I wasn’t aware of how isolated I’d made myself until I scheduled a lunch date with Denice Beights, a woman friend I hadn’t seen in nearly a year.  The last time I saw her I was standing in her office and we shared girl time during a business call.  The topic du jour was a discussion about women who aren’t 22 and totally buff wearing sleeveless dresses.  I was sporting a sundress that made me feel happy and pretty.  But it was a sundress and I was 49-years-old.  So I accessorized with a light weight cropped shoulder sweater to “hide my arms”.  I took off the sweater and twirled ’round like a little girl in an Easter dress to show her the bodice and the back !  Denice encouraged me to drop the sweater and show off the dress…and my arms!

I left our visit feeling confident and sexy.   My dress was lovely.  And it was spring.  And the sweater did make me warmer than I liked.  So I dropped the sweater and strutted on with the rest of my day happier and more comfortable.

That’s what friends are for!

Yesterday we both had made time to sit and catch up.  It was a deliberate event.  Our visit was one of those limitless topic, free-association sessions that last a few hours.  One of those opportunities that leave you feeling like you’re taking a long walk in the woods with a close friend.  Quiet.  Unhurried.  Intimate. A visit that refreshes the soul.

We talked about cancer, breast cancer, my cancer, doctors, healthcare, local doctors, Indy doctors, my doctors.  We discovered that Dr. Anna Maria Storniolo, my sassy Italian bombshell of an oncologist at IU was also Denice’s mother-in-law’s oncologist.  I went on to explain that Dr. Storniolo is the co-director of the IU Komen Tissue Bank in Indianapolis.  The world’s largest collection of healthy breast tissue donations.

My words struck a chord with Denice and she said, “I did that!  They came to Fort Wayne to collect donations…”

I was dumbstruck.  I knew exactly what she went through.  An absolutely healthy woman stepped up to undergo a breast biopsy procedure for no reason other than she thought she could help other women.  “It took a month to heal,” she said.

Tears sprang to my eyes and I couldn’t speak.  I knew exactly what it was like to heal.  I knew exactly what the snaps felt like.  I knew exactly what the numbing felt like.  Except I had to go through it.  Denice didn’t.  She volunteered.

“Are those sad…or happy tears?”  she asked cautiously as she watched me with concern.  But I didn’t know how to tell her what it meant to me to know that she would step up for other women and go through that procedure because she could.  Giving a blood specimen?  Sure.  Little needle prick.  A minute and you’re done.  DNA sample?  Sure.  Little Q-tip swab of a cheek or nose.  No problem.  Excise breast tissue the size of peas?  “That’s gonna leave a mark…!”

Denice’s selfless act of love for others brought to mind this verse:  “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. ”   On behalf of myself and all women who’ve faced this diagnosis,  “Thank you, Denice!”  One day breast cancer will be eradicated.  You will have been a part of that!

And that’s what friends are for!