Family is vital during the cancer journey, but family is not just made of legal and blood relatives, but the friends we make along the way as well.
I have always treasured my friendships. Some of this may be because the majority of my family lives out of state and I am single. I have treasured friends who make sure I am not alone on holidays, and am fortunate to be considered adopted “family” by parents and children. We have heard the adage, “You can choose your friends, but not your family.” However, my parents when they were alive learned to know my friends well. My siblings have also met my friends when they come to visit, and became close to them also. I love knowing their siblings and parents too. It is friends I turn to when I wish to celebrate, to laugh, to cry and to be totally myself. I also pride myself on having a wide spectrum of people from conservative to liberal to in between. Political beliefs do not define friendships and we cannot allow that.
The philosopher, Epicurus, lived from 341-270 BC! And he believed “Of all the means to ensure happiness throughout the whole life, by far the most important is the acquisitions of friends.” I try to visualize what life was like in BC, and what would make men write about friendships. Perhaps being forced to meet people face to face influenced this. Or, just maybe to survive in a wild world with beasts that could hurt or kill them made men depend on each other. I do have a vivid imagination!
I think most of us would agree that when first diagnosed with cancer, one learns to truly appreciate friends. It is friends who accompany me to the doctor, come and walk my service dog, bring me food and hold my hand with tears rolling down my face because I feel lousy. These are the people I can reach out and admit I am depressed, and they are there. I have a church community who constantly prays, sends me cards and gives me unconditional support.
I have met wonderful people through social media, my website and the blogs I have written. They offer me a different type of support. I do not know one person locally who has my rare type of cancer, but I love correspondence with people all over the country. We write to each other, e-mail, communicate on Facebook and support each other. This is not the same as face to face friendships, but I call these social souls my support system! As a member of the Patient Advisory Council at the Cancer Center where I receive my treatments, I find a tremendous amount of love and support from the other people who belong.
For many of us, it is difficult to reach out, and I had trouble for a long time. The wise former President Barack Obama said, “We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
Cancer supporters need support, love, family and friendships. Not fake ones, but the real ones who are there for us. I have had these people for ten years. My doctor is one of my best friends of all — not socially because of professional ethics, but emotionally. We agree the reason I am living longer than the odds projected for my type of cancer is my support system and friends. So, people, cherish your friends, reach out and tell them you love them. John Hays says it all.”Friends are the sunshine of life.” Bask in your sunshine!