Mostly, it has been out of sheer delight from the massive outpouring of support.
But if I am to be completely transparent and honest in this blog, which has been my goal from the beginning, I must admit that I am still very much distressed by some of the losses.
People who I had assumed were part of my support network didn't show up, like a good friend of over 30 years, and a few family members whom I thought I meant something to. A favorite aunt of mine never said a word; yes, we had a falling-out a decade ago, but I am still her niece. And one of my favorite childhood cousins has only asked about me through others in the family, but has not reached out, not once.
Another friend of over four decades never responded to a mass email I sent announcing my diagnosis. It was uncharacteristic of him, so when I asked why, his response was that he was praying for me daily so he didn't need to reach out.
That's cool. But, um, how would I have known that?
What I know about people in crisis is that they need to know that you are thinking of them, even if it is just a simple "I'm sorry to hear...". You don't have to show up in a big way, but if you are part of someone's life, it helps to hear any words of support or compassion (even if nothing more is ever said or done).
Now, one can certainly argue that my expectations of others were probably too high, and that could definitely be part of this equation.
But honestly, if strangers were able to show up for me, isn't it natural to assume that family and friends would, too?
Well, not necessarily. Because some still didn't.
So it begs the question: will they show up if I die from cancer? Or were they never part of my team to begin with?
The biggest surprise and heartbreak is my BFF. She is now my "former" BFF because I actually lost her as my friend.
Over cancer (I think).
This is where it gets really sticky for me because while I know that her disappearance is ultimately about her, I also know that my angst over that is about me.
But I lost someone important to me. And I don't have any solid answers about why, and I don't know what to do about that.
Especially since it is so out-of-the-norm for her. From the beginning of my diagnosis, she was all-in, offering support when I was still trying to come to terms with my diagnosis.
But then she slowly began retreating.
My first clue was when she didn't call me for three weeks after her return from a two-week trip abroad, then when she did, her daughter was in the backseat while I was on speaker phone in her car.
That didn't feel very personal, I remember thinking. But I also understood that returning home from a long trip is exhausting and tedious so multi-tasking with her BFF while running errands may have been the best she could do.
Weeks went by without seeing her, then one day she called me under the guise of wanting to know how I was feeling, but quickly asked who I'd been writing about in my coaching newsletters. I had an immediate gut reaction that her real motive was to find out if I was writing about her, and that felt awful. It was apparent that she was already feeling guilty about her disappearance, and she even tried to chastise me for writing about her publicly.
But I wasn't.
Instead of reacting to her accusation, I later asked her why she was reacting so strongly about my newsletter, and she admitted that she didn't understand why she felt so out-of-sorts.
A month later, she sat across from me over dinner and through tears admitted that she "couldn't lose" me. I know she meant she couldn't lose me to cancer, but the irony is that she ultimately lost me because she was such a poor friend.
But that night in August (the last time I saw her), over our shared meal of tears and laughter, she asked how she could help me as I was going into my 4th chemo. She even jotted down notes in her phone, as a reminder of my string of good days and bad ones. She was all-in again and I felt my BFF had finally returned as I knew her.
But instead of showing up, she kept retreating.
She tried to deliver flowers on a day that I was really not feeling well, so she opted for the next day to deliver them. I waited and waited, and she never arrived with them (she later blamed me for "refusing her offering").
For several weeks after that, I tried to get together with her again (the girl with cancer was doing an awful-lot of chasing to find her), and when I told her of my unavailable dates (due to chemo), she chose only those dates to meet up.
It appeared as if she wasn't paying attention to my schedule, at all.
Mind you, my schedule had been pared down to mere days because it was overtaken by chemotherapy, recovery, and work.
So when she didn't answer my inquiry about viable dates to get together, I emailed her. I also confronted her about her continued disappearance, and this time she became defensive.
Her response would have been inappropriate as her BFF, but as her BFF with cancer?
It was hostile and cruel.
She said she was busy, and she was bothered that I could only see her at my convenience.
Well, no shit. I was undergoing cancer treatments, which widdled my available time each month down to days. Everyone else seemed to understand this, but she was the only one using it against me.
What I now know for certain is that those of us who are in crisis-mode are allowed to be selfish. And yes, I obviously expected my BFF to contribute much more than she was able to, but couldn't she just have told me this?
But her behaviors only got worse, and each time I excused them because I thought she was having a hard time with her BFF having cancer. In her inappropriate letter to me, she made it very clear that I was wrong in my assumptions.
So then, what was her disappearance about?
Because any friend of mine needs to be all-in. I am with my friends, so it's how I judge my expectations of others.
I drop everything for my friends, and I would make sure my friends never felt discarded while going through a life-altering event. I was surrounded by strangers who made more of an attempt than she did, and they have since become my friends.
Huh, imagine that.
Even my massage therapist knew more about my treatment and recovery than my BFF did.
In fact, my BFF saw me only once with my wig on; she never saw me with my doo-rag on, or bald; and she had no idea how each of my chemotherapies went or how I endured them; she had not one clue about my daily radiation treatments.
But she has been privy to my life through my blog, Facebook and newsletters, which is a lazy way to find out how people are doing without being a friend who engages in-person. I don't believe she has the privilege of knowing about my life if she chooses not to participate, so I have made the difficult decision to block her from all of my social media.
The way I see it, there is no excuse big enough that would help me understand why my BFF would bail just when I needed her most.
And as I sit writing this, I begin to wonder why I am filled with such hot-rage. It is obvious to me now that she apparently was not the BFF I thought she was, nor did she take our friendship as seriously as I did.
Instead of feeling sad, I should be feeling triumphant.
I am a loyal and trustworthy friend who sticks like glue to people who are important to me. And because she failed to even come close to resembling what a friend means, I should be thankful that I found this out before another decade went by, all the while believing that she was on my team.
But, still, I am in mourning over the loss of my BFF whom I have shared a decade of memories with. A decade of fun and laughter and tears. It's heart-breaking to find out that someone I felt so close to bailed so badly.
And during the most vulnerable time of my life feels like a slap in the face.
I mean, doesn't she even have the slightest bit of concern about me? Doesn't she want to know anything about my life anymore? I certainly miss hearing about hers, but she hasn't shared anything of substance in months. And I haven't seen her in close to five months.
That, right there, should convince me of what kind of friend she wasn't.
Her parting words in her email would probably sting if they weren't so insulting: I want you to be happy inside again and love yourself so your body can reach homeostasis and the interactions with others are through love.
She's schooling me on loving myself and others, really?
From the woman who has show little compassion/empathy/interest/concern for her BFF with cancer.
In that same response, she asked not one question about me, the gal who was at that time in the midst of cancer treatment and uncertainty about living.
One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, wrote about this experience in a blurb I happened to save:
"Who are you furious at today? Now look closely at your history with them. Find the moment when you allowed that person to come closer to you than they had earned the right to come.
Now figure out how to reestablish (or establish for the first time) a wiser boundary.
When they are held the correct distance from you, you will stop hating them. Until then, you are just using this person as a weapon to beat yourself up with. Put an end to it. Stand in your dignity and set your own terms."
Wise advice. It's probably why I love Ms. Gilbert so much.
As I look at my history with my BFF, a few details stand out which would suggest that she was never all-in, but I still allowed her to come close to me when she had not earned that right.
Perhaps I am really just mad at myself for allowing her to get close without proving that she was a trustworthy and loyal friend.
And the only way I can begin to let this anger go is to reestablish a wiser boundary with her. First, by demoting her as my BFF; second, by letting her go completely; and third, by writing her a thank you letter for her friendship that has been important to me for nearly a decade.
Then I can forgive both of us.
But this sad fact remains: she missed it all--the good, the awful, and the amazing. She missed out on the beautiful ride my cancer journey turned into, and how I was able to share so much goodness with others.
She missed the exact reason we have BFF's to begin with: to be witness to others' suffering while offering love and support.
People stop me on the street, thanking me for writing this blog. Apparently, many have learned a lot about cancer. They've also learned how to support others who are in crises. I am both humbled and grateful for being able to be an inspiration to others.
Because if you expect to be my friend, I require your loyalty, your support, and your unwavering presence, especially if I am going through a life-altering event. Because, dear friends, you will always have mine.
Anything less than that is settling.
And as a fresh cancer-survivor, I can't afford to settle for anything or anyone that doesn't support my life.