Friends Carry Us Through Cancer and Other Tough Times

My family is scattered throughout the country, so I often rely on friends to lend a helping hand.

I have mentioned several times that we need a support system around us and that is the only way we cancer survivors can make it. When we think about support, we usually think first about family. I also think about friends.

My family is scattered all over the country and I used to fly to different places for holidays. I loved celebrating with relatives in Boston, St. Louis and even once in Las Vegas! The pandemic brought all of this to a screeching halt.

Now, I do not know what I would do without friends. They are the ones who live close by. They help me immensely by driving me to treatments, bringing me food and allowing me to cry on their shoulders during dark times. My family has sacrificed and driven a long way to spend some of the holidays with me. But when I need something immediately, my friends surround me.

In the latest book by Michelle Obama, “The Light We Carry,” she talks about what friends mean to her. She emphasizes that she has a very strong marriage and wonderful children but has needed friends to support her throughout her life. She compares them to daisies that pop up in her life and birds in the trees who sing and lighten her load.

Obama points out that research shows people with strong social ties live longer. Some of these ties can be as minor as talking to the barista while buying a cup of coffee or stopping to greet a neighbor while walking the dog. She wisely suggests that getting immersed in our phones can keep us from engaging with other people, and we need to make an effort to be social.

This woman is famous, yet, she explains how her friends were there every step of the way with her. When she went from the South Side of Chicago to Princeton for college, which was mostly white male students and faculty, she sought out female friends and mentors who helped her. She tells honestly about the fears she faced in adjusting to a whole new life in the White House. She had lived in Chicago most of her life with friends and family, and the prospect of moving to DC and being First Lady terrified her.

Her friends surrounded and listened to her fears. She has friends with whom she takes retreats, goes out for coffee and plays sports with. They are not all the same people, but they all keep her engaged and challenged.

I am so fortunate to have a variety of friends. My friends in book club force me to think about various issues. My neighbors brought me food when I had COVID-19. The staff at Starbucks gave me a picture of my service dog along with coffee and gift certificates when I lost my beloved Sita. I have friends from church who are always there, friends I worked with and love to see, and even some people from high school!

When I first visited my oncologist, I could tell she was concerned I did not have a strong support system being single, but she quickly realized I did.

The importance of friends is reflected in several songs. Dionne Warwick made a popular song titled “That’s what friends are for.” Some of the lyrics are very reflective.

“Keep smiling; keep shining, know you can count on me for sure.

That’s what friends are for."

Another very popular television series “The Golden Girls” featured four seniors who lived together and their unique friendship. The opening song has a wonderful theme, “Thank you for being a friend” by The Theme guys.

“Thank you for being a friend

Traveled down the road and back again

Your heart is true you are a pal and confidante."

Could the reason this show has been a favorite for decades is because it emphasizes friendship?

So when you go out for coffee, or through the drive-through, or walk your dog, leave the phone for a little bit and smile. You may just make a friend that will support you and help you to live a little bit longer.

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