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Good Example

March 9, 2011

People keep telling me what an inspiration I am to them. My response varies.

“Thank you.”

“That’s humbling.”

*Quizzical look.*

“What, because I didn’t die? That’s more a matter of luck.”

“Yes, I’ve been such an uncomplaining patient person about the whole thing. Not.”

“Yes, because everyone should aspire to looking like an extra in a mad scientist’s laboratory.”

I think it’s because I walk around manifesting everyone’s worst fear. I’m like the horror movie actor starring in the sequel — easy to cheer for, and everyone knows that if you made it through the first one, you’ll make it through the second.

It makes me afraid to screw things up royally, because I’ll let people down. I’ve always hated being thrust into the “role model” position, and I hate it now more than ever. I prefer to aspire toward “cautionary tale.”

Nevertheless, I try to be a good sport about it, because people have been splendidly wonderful to me.

I try.

I fail a lot.

It’s hard not to feel like a spotlight is on me all the time, and I don’t have a lot of examples for how to deal with it because not a lot of people have walked the path before me and made it through to the other side.

My friend made it through.

I first met her when I had just, just finished “everything” and I hardly had any hair at all, and I only had one breast, and I could barely string together five words.

“I’m sorry, I’m a mess,” I said to the ladies around the (fancy) brunch table.  Everyone was understanding, especially the woman next to me.

“I had cancer too,” she said. “Twice.”

“It’s still very new to you,” she told me. “It gets better.”

Everyone says that, because it’s true, but it has more resonance when it comes from someone whose first cancer was diagnosed when she was a newlywed and second cancer when she was a new mother.

Over the years we’ve become good friends. She’s one of the people who brings out my snarky raunchy sense of humor.

She never talks about her cancer. By never, I mean seldom, unless I ask directly, and press.

“I don’t think about it all the time,” she says. “It’s in the past. I have better things to think about, or if I do think about it, I try to make a joke. I don’t let it define me.”

It’s not like she doesn’t have any lingering side effects from her cancer. She has visible scars. She has ongoing health concerns. She has the lurking terror of recurrence.

I don’t think of those things when I spend time with her or think about her.

She’s my friend with the fantastic sense of style. The one who always knows a good place to go for a quick weekend trip. The one with the good dogs. The one with the completely and utterly hot husband (he was a Major League baseball player in his youth). She’s my friend I can count on to pray for something when I ask her to pray, and to listen to something in confidence and never, ever, ever breathe a word of it to anyone unless it’s one of those confidences that actually needs to be told.

I don’t think of her, ever, as my cancer friend.

She’s not a role model for me because she and I both had cancer. She’s a role model in so many other, better ways.

Through my friend’s friendship, I’ve learned to be a better listener. I’ve learned to do a better job putting my clothes together. I’ve learned how to have fun, how to bear good luck gracefully. How to be generous. How to be tactful, and how and when to be direct.

Cancer has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

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  1. April Ford permalink

    You nailed it! 🙂

  2. Aunt Lee permalink

    Your blog is interesting because it gives well written observations of daily life and thoughts. Cancer, farts, dogs – you can drop cancer whenever you want because your observations about lots of things tend toward Spot On.

    Or not, you don’t ever have to drop cancer as a subject if you don’t want to.

    Your blog is Your Blog.


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