It doesn't get any easier to say goodbye to a friend and it brings close the reality that though we are living better, and longer with advanced cancer, that there is still no cure.
Suzanne Lindley has been living with metastatic colorectal cancer since 1998. She is the founder of YES! Beat Liver Tumors, an organization for individuals living with metastatic liver tumors, and an advocate for Fight Colorectal Cancer.
For the past three months, life has been anything but normal. After my dad's fall and surgery, instead of inpatient rehab, we thought it would be best for my dad to recover with family. So began our 13 weeks of togetherness! What memories we have made! With each day I've watched my mom and dad care for one another and find new balances and strengths. I realize more and more the depth of love and commitment they have for one another. It has been a beautiful journey into taking baby steps to great progress. Though difficult to watch the painstaking strides of rehabilitation, I have a newfound admiration for my dad and his determination. I will never again take for granted my ability to bring a glass to my mouth for a drink, the ease for which I can hold a pen (in spite of neuropathy) and write my name, or even the importance that the use of my arms provide.
Nor have I, or will I, take for granted the blessing of living each day in spite of colon cancer. As I proudly helped my dad in his recovery, I also watched helplessly as three friends were stolen away by cancer. While I have tried to celebrate their lives, the research that allowed them to live and for us to meet, the treatments that gave them many celebrations — I have felt an overwhelming sense of grief and loss. It doesn't get any easier to say goodbye to a friend and it brings close the reality that though we are living better, and longer in spite of advanced cancer, that there is still no cure.
I have reminisced these friendships and the great fortitude that each of my friends possessed. Three ladies who graced my life for years and who provided guidance, knowledge, support, love and hope during the dark days and scary nights of cancer. We would have never met without this horrid disease. And yet with cancer in our midst we shared experiences and dreams that were beyond vision. We had a closeness that few are fortunate to grasp and together we celebrated milestones and miracles with our friends and families that our own doctors never expected us to see.
These women were mentors for others facing life wih cancer; they were beacons to their families. I have heard story after story about how they changed the direction or made easier the journey for another survivor. I still find it hard to believe that I can't pick up the phone and listen to the familiar voices that I have come to love so much through the years. I'm trying hard to keep the sadness my heart feels in check and to convey the beautiful life gifts I know these ladies would want to accentuate. As time marches on, I plan to impart not only heartwarming stories, but the impact that my friends continued to make even in the final days and hours of their lives. One person. One life. Touching so many more.
I'm shaken, sad, grateful, glad and heartbroken ... yet hopeful. And I'm quite lucky to be still standing.