Good Morning! When I was getting ready for work this morning I was thinking about some of the experiences that Leann, Holly, and I have had over the past few years. I thought a lot about how our friendship has changed and what it was like coming to terms with Holly’s diagnosis.
Let me give you a little bit of insight into our friendship. Holly and I have been friends for about 6 years now, but Leann and Holly have been friends for much longer. In our friendship we have always been open and honest with each other, which is something that has never changed. We are adventurers by nature, so most of the time we are getting into some sort of mischief together, and that is just how it has always been. However, that is not to say that our friendship has not changed at all after Holly’s diagnosis, because it did, in some big ways.
- The first thing that changed was this idea that our friend would be there forever, no matter what. Now please do not mistake me, I am so hopeful that she will beat this. I have ever lost that hope, and neither has Leann, but there is a reality that comes with a diagnosis of stage three cancer, and that reality is that the person you love might not recover. The strange thing about this new reality is that it makes everything seem more urgent. It makes those couple days or weeks when we don’t see each other seem longer, or sometimes like lost time. It’s weird, because the frequency in which we hang out or talk didn’t change, but it felt like it did which took some adjustments on all parts. (Don’t worry I have a point and some tips at the end of this).
- The energy that Holly has to do things with us is not the same as it used to be. The first time I noticed this was when we went to visit her after she began chemo. When we walked in she was happy to see us, but it was obvious that she was tired. We all sat around and talked, but it was evident that Holly needed to get some sleep, so Leann and I gathered our things, said our goodbyes, and as we left Holly’s husband hugged us and thanked us for coming. He told us that she had taken a nap so that she could spend time with us, and he knew she was grateful to see us. That was really the first time it hit me. Holly had taken a nap in order to spend time with us, and was still utterly exhausted when we saw her. Things have gotten a little better with adjusting to treatments, but there is definitely a difference in how Holly spends her energy. Right now we are planning a vacation for her birthday, and all of us are putting our heads together to figure out how to make sure she does not expend too much of the valuable energy she has.
- There are good days and bad days. Some of you are probably thinking, everyone has good and bad days, which is true, but I mean this in a different way. When I say good and bad days I mean there are days when I am convinced our friend is cured because she has so much energy and is so much herself again, and then there are days when she can hardly get out of bed from the pain she is feeling. What makes this hard as a friend is not only watching your friend suffer, but not knowing what kind of day they are going to have. Making plans when this is the case is very difficult, because not even Holly knows when she is going to have a good day or a bad day, and unfortunately, too good of a day, where she does too much, can lead to a bad day.
This brings me to my tips section. Here are some of the things that I have found, that help Leann and I cope with the changes in our relationship with Holly, and have also helped to strengthen our friendship.
- Be flexible. This may seem obvious, but sometimes being flexible is hard. It can be hard to change plans at a moments notice, or drop plans completely, but sometimes that is what is necessary. Sometimes those long standing dinner plans you had have to be cancelled because your loved one woke up and can’t get out of bed. Sometimes, instead of going to see a movie, you end up going to watch a movie at their house. (If they ask you to watch The Room, leave fast. It’s a trap).
- Quality over quantity. This one was hard for me to learn. I wanted quantity. I wanted to hang out all the time, much more than we normally did. What I didn’t realize was that Holly just couldn’t. She needed a lot more time to lay down in her bed and rest without having to play games or talk or be crazy. It was hard for me to accept that the quality of the time we spend together matter’s a lot more than the quantity. When we do hang out, it’s great. We have fun, we catch up, we laugh (a lot) and at the end of the day that is what really matters.
- Find alternatives to going out. Sometimes going out just isn’t an option. Make sure you have something fun to do at home. We play a lot of videogames, so it’s no biggie for us, but we have also been known to play board games, or just sit around and talk.
- Still go out. Do not think that your loved one needs to be kept in a bubble. There is only so much staying at home and resting anyone can take. If they ask to go out go out! Have a good time, just make sure you are conscious of when they are tired or ready for the night to be over.
- Have fun. For me this is the most important one. Sitting around and allowing yourself or your loved one to wallow doesn’t help anyone. Being positive and having a good time does. Leann, Holly, and I do a lot of laughing and joking around. Having fun together is what makes friendships and life so worth it. Don’t lose sight of that no matter what happens.