I was having coffee with a good friend on Monday. He's a guy I've been working with musically for a little over a year, and we've become very close during that time. I've known him for years, but only worked with him since I got cancer. Our friendship has really just started, and in that short time, we've done a lot. We've made a real difference in some young lives. And had a whole lot of fun in the process.
My friend was talking about the contribution I've made since I joined his endeavor. He realizes that if it weren't for cancer, we never would have worked together and become the friends we've become. But because of cancer, our friendship will be short-lived. Or as he put it, "I never would have had you if it weren't for cancer, but because of cancer, I'm gonna lose you."
He's struggling with the irony of it all. There is a whole new category of people in my life that fit that description now. People I would never have met if not for cancer, or would never have gotten to know well. People who I could not imagine life without now. Most of them only know me because of cancer. There is an enormous benefit to our relationship, but with one big drawback. Sooner rather than later, they will lose me, when we've only just begun.
I think of my friend's wife, who I've only become friends with since I was diagnosed, and largely because of that. Recently, she was lamenting the timing of my illness. I asked when a good time would be, and she didn't have an answer. But I'm sure she meant when I'm 90. When our friendship won't have just started.
I think of my therapist, who I can't imagine not knowing. I'll be her first patient to die on her. We would never have met, of course, if it weren't for cancer. There's my nurse, Melanie too. It stands to reason I wouldn't have met her unless I had cancer, but she is a towering figure in my life now. As an oncology nurse, she has a lot of experience losing patients. But I don't think this one will be easy to lose.
I think of the friends I've made online, too numerous to mention. You're a huge part of my support system, yet we never would have interacted if not for cancer. It's horrible, but it brought us together. And each time one of us falls, we all feel the loss.
I think of my protege, who I've talked about before in this blog, and posted videos of on Facebook. I've never called her that here before, but that's what she is to me. We really have just gotten started. I believe I'm helping her get to the next level, though she doesn't need that much help. But I won't be able to help her for long. It's a blessing and a curse. A cruel irony.
My protege is only 17, so I talk with her mom a lot. We have become good friends. She put it this way. She said it's feeling happiness and devastation at the same time. I can see some of you nodding your heads. That's exactly what it is. Happiness and devastation at the same time.
I must be really dense. I've only looked at this from my perspective. On my end, it's all blessing. I get the blessing of all these wonderful people in my life and many more during my last couple of years on earth. I get to work on exciting things and build meaningful relationships, then go on to even greater blessing. But for them, their time of blessing is exchanged for a time of sorrow. Their happiness traded for devastation.
Why did I never realize this? Every person I've invested in since my diagnosis, while we treasure the time we have now, will pay a heavy price for that time down the road. The very thing that brought us together will be the thing that separates us. And yet, they stay with me anyway. Knowing their hearts will be broken. Not one shies away.
Obviously, I have many close friends who have known me for years, some for decades. And of course, my wife and family are closer to me than anyone. Their loss will be much greater than those I speak of in this post. I don't mean to minimize our relationship at all. You are dear to me. I depend on you. But we've had many years together. The people I'm talking about in this post can't say that. The ones who would never have had me if not for cancer, but who will now lose me because of it, to quote my friend.
To all of these precious people I say this. To me, our relationship is pure blessing. I'm sorry it's a mixture for you. Thank you for sticking with me even though you know it will be painful. I love you. #waroncancer #bearingwitness