Friendships forge survival, my friends perspective........
Friend: a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations.
Friendship: the emotions or conduct of friends; the state of being friends.
Friends play a huge role in any persons life, but they especially do in women's lives, they are our confidant's, our sounding boards almost like our priests that you can swear at, if you will. Friends provide us with the type of love and support that a family member or even a partner can't and a lot of that I feel has to do with honesty and that honesty doesn't always come without judgement, in fact much of the time a friendship holds a lot of judgement, well my friendships do anyway. I would prefer my friend tells me that I'm being an idiot or that I do look fat in that dress, I want my friend to trust in our relationship enough that she/he feels safe and confident enough to say whatever they want without me "unfriending" them, so to speak.
I'm not saying that there haven't been times where a friend has said or done something that has upset or even angered me and we've had a disagreement or even an argument resulting in a premature hang up tone and vice versa. Of course we've had our spats, that's healthy in any relationship, if you haven't had some sort of disagreement in a long term relationship, I suggest you haven't always been completely honest with your friend about your feelings and for me life is too short to bullshit to someone just to make them feel better, in saying that, the odd occasion where you've told me that blinder of a pimple that's been guiding flight VA815 in to Brisbane airport for the last couple of nights isn't that noticeable, is acceptable friendship fudging, it's a delicate dance this friendship business.
I would say most people say they choose their friends because of who "they" are and they select them because they have common interests to themselves, you both do yoga, talking to each other is easy, maybe you both like to down a bottle of wine each every night, whatever that commonality may be, that is why you're friends, whilst I believe this to be true and a large factor in friendships would be compatibility, I actually believe that we remain friends with people for extended periods, because of the way they support who "we" are, I believe we remain friends because they love "us" for our warts and all. How a friend supports "us", I believe plays a huge part in the longevity of a friendship, not the little things like a joint love of boxsets and Botox. It's because that friendship makes us feel good about ourselves.
Humans go throughout life unconsciously wanting to be accepted, wanting to be loved and recognised and if you find a person who makes you feel important and builds your self esteem, then of course you want that person around you, it makes you feel like a better person, a "worthy" human being.
I went through a long period, due to personal reasons that I didn't communicate with my friends as often as I should and because of that I lost many, but there were the ones who stuck (when I certainly wouldn't have) and for that I am grateful and they are still the ones who stick by me through thick and thin, they've been with me through break-ups, work problems, Cancer, chemo, treatments, weight gain/weight loss, even when I wasn't as active a friend as I should be, they persisted and now that I've realised how important friendships are and even though I live in a whole different state to them, we see each other more often now than we did when I lived around the corner from them.
I have a handful of friends and each of them are from completely different backgrounds and have completely different personalities, but the funny thing is, on the very odd occasions that we've all gotten together, we all meld, which I think is amazing, they all have one thing in common and that is me and their genuine love for me, which I say makes me a pretty lucky person.
So what's this blog about? I asked a small handful of my "best" friends to answer the question "How did you feel, when you found out I was terminal, how do you cope and has it affected our relationship?".
So here are some of their responses, in their words, unedited
When I first heard Lisa had cancer, it didn't feel as though I heard or 'processed' it, I more felt it. Like you feel a punch in the sternum. It feels more like an ache now. The surprise from the punch is gone, but it feels the same.
I feel the same way about Lisa now as I did prior to diagnosis for the most part, I don't think Lisa would want it any other way. I think one of the things we both enjoy about our friendship is the unfiltered honesty.
I think the only differences are that I find myself in awe of her strength of character and attitude towards this fight. Lisa has remarkable spirit & maintains a filthy sense of humor. Her ability to keep positive in the face of Cancer has made me look at my trials from a different perspective. I'm very thankful for that.
A terminal diagnosis is obviously devastating and I deal with it by doing what I think is my 'job', to just keep being the same friend, it is not about me & how I feel. Lisa has enough on her plate without worrying about how I am dealing with what is her own, very personal position. You can't just take the good stuff, and there is so much of that with Lisa... I'm trying to balance being positive and also allowing Lisa to speak openly to me about how she is feeling when she is struggling with treatment, scared or overwhelmed. It's a privilege to be a confidant. Of course I think its a shit hand & incredibly unfair. I get angry about it and also find myself devestated when I hear a treatment hasn't been effective or tumors have grown ... I try not to dwell on the diagnosis when I think about Lisa though, it does not define who she is to me.
We all have that one friend you share your everything with…… that one friend who is the missing piece to your puzzle.
So what would happen if you lost them… If they were no longer at the other end of the phone like you were used to. This is the questions that plays through my mind day in and day out…
That moment Lisa rang to deliver me the news that her cancer was back was like being thrown under a bus. Seriously give a girl a break… this can’t be happening. Instantly my reaction was “let’s just fix it”, but the reality is it’s not just a broken heart, a wrongly purchased dress or the realisation either one of us had gained a kilo. It was Cancer… We can’t fix this!!!!
How do you stay brave for someone when you are barely coping with the idea yourself? Sometimes I feel like it is Lisa who is holding it together for all of us, which in return keeps us strong. The only thing I could promise was that I would refuse to let cancer define our friendship. We have been friends for close on 20 years and while everything is changing around her, I don’t want our friendship to be one of them. For that reason, I do my best not to talk chemo, tumour size and death, but instead continue to talk, nail polish, fashion, boys, love and all those other things only best friends have the answer to. Don’t get me wrong we also talk fear, anger, funerals and bucket lists, but every moment I can I go back to the normal stuff… I guess for me it’s my way of keeping my best friend my best friend for as long as I can, rather than losing her to cancer before I have to.
Then there is the other side of this…… I refuse to accept that one-day, way before we had planned, I am not going to have my best friend around and to be honest…. The thought scares the shit out of me!!!
Our saying…. “she believed she could…. so she did”!!!! I love her!!! xxx
When you were diagnosed I had no doubt in my mind that you would be cured. A bit of surgery and chemo and you'd be all good. Selfishly I didn't think that someone else I loved could possibly die from this asshole of a disease, when so many people fight it and survive. I can't remember my reaction when you told me it was terminal but I would assume the word "fuck" was involved. I think you shared this news with me a few months after Lyndall died and I definitely didn't have anything positive to say to you and I wish I did. Despite this, I always wanted to be someone you could be honest with about how you were feeling and I hope I have been that.
How do I cope? In all honesty I am not sure I do at times. Many a tear has been shed for you when I am sitting alone at home with time to think. I cope by talking to you and having a laugh. I cope by talking to Mum and having a cry. I scream at the world and ask that question we all have which is WHY?? But at the end of the day it is you who is suffering and if I can play any small part in making your life better, however long it may be, then I will do whatever I can.
Love you xx
For me hearing that your cancer had returned and was terminal, left me feeling immediate denial and confusion, I cried and I was pissed off, how dare cancer rear its ugly head again !!
I know it sounds cliché but I seriously changed my entire outlook and attitude , you inspired me to get off my arse and change my journey to appreciate the "little" things . So many times a day I motivate myself to stop thinking, stop procrastinating, stop questioning, I have a no nonsense approach to my life now.
How do I feel about you ? I feel blessed and "thankful" that our paths crossed you are a force to be reckoned with and I'm pissed off that cancer chose to mess with you , I feel that you're guts and determination are your greatest attributes, you my friend have taught me so much about myself and before you came into my life I did have this battered little person inside continually second guessing herself and looking for recognition and praise. You are my inspiration. Yes cliche but it's true. I adore you xx
And yes this was very hard to write xox
So there you have it a small insight into how friends are affected by this disease, all I've ever wanted from my friends pre cancer and now, is support and unconditional love and that's what they've given to me, I am truly lucky that I have each of my friends to ring and cry to when I feel like shit, when I feel like I can't face the next day, when I want to bitch and when I want to talk about last nights episode of Beverly Hills housewives, so basically a friendship before cancer is exactly the same as it during cancer and terminal cancer, it's just that it probably holds a bit more meaning than it did before.
For those friends out there who are trying to figure out the best way to deal with a friend having cancer, the best advice I can give, is take off the kid gloves, we are still the same person we were yesterday, for me I want you to not constantly be repeating clichés like "we'll beat this" "it'll all be fine" , yes of course we want to hear that we can get through this (unless you're terminal, then the old "they're coming up with new things everyday" bullshit really gets on my goat), but we also want you to express your fear, your sadness. I sometimes have felt alienated or somewhat of a hypochondriac because when I'm bald and have no eyelashes and eyebrows and you still insist on telling me you don't notice and i'm still beautiful, it infuriates me, I want you to say the truth, I want you to say, yes you do resemble Dan Aykroyd from his Coneheads days without eyebrows and when I'm on the floor in a ball crying from pain or chemo side effects, I don't want you to just hug me and say it'll all be alright, if you want to cry, please cry, sometimes we just need you to lie on the floor next to us and cry and breakdown too, in some strange way it makes us feel better.
Some friends will distance themselves from you, because they simply cannot deal with it, if you're one of those people, text the person and tell them why you've gone awol, we will most likely understand, but don't just disappear, for those who want to help, but don't want to be the emotionally supportive one, offer to bring over cooked food, pick up prescriptions for them, do a bit of laundry, clean their house,offer to babysit or pick up the kids after school if they have them, these things will help greatly and be beneficial to both you and your friend.
As I've said before, this disease does not just affect the patient, so for you, the one with cancer, try to be gentle on your friend, they're trying to navigate this minefield as well, it's new territory for everyone, so lower your friendship expectations for a little while, until your friend has time to digest everything and come to terms (if that's ever possible) with the fact their friend could be facing death.
Most of all, like with any friendship, honesty is the best policy, speak with your friend when things have settled down a bit about how you want your friendship to work during this asshole of a journey, sort of like a "game plan", a "friendship plan", that way you both know where you're at and where you're coming from. It may sound silly, but I feel facing it head on early on and making each other aware of your expectations, will help you avoid a lot of stress or heartache down the road. As I said, you're both new to this, there is no right way or wrong way to handle it, you're both going to be scared and unsure of what the future may hold, so be gentle on each other.
Thank-you to my friends who provided their responses and thank-you to those other friends of mine who are there for me no matter what, your love and support, is a large part of what has seen me through the days where I just don't think I can fight anymore, you guys are the ones who make me get back in the ring again.
To sum up the type of friendship I have with my friends, I will sign off the same way my friend Nicole signed off her email to me, with her response to my question.
Love ya mole xx (and that my friends is true friendship right there 😜)
My name is Lisa Magill and I have been navigating the minefield that is cancer since just months after turning 30, people have been saying to me for years that I should put my thoughts into writing and as time has progressed I thought I had left it too late, well here we are nearly 4 years in and for some unknown reason I've decided to start to write today.