FRIENDSHIP and CHOCOLATE ~
Good Afternoon My Friends:
When I was asked to speak to you today about friendship and chocolate, I immediately (without thinking – as usual) said Yes. Sure. Why not?. Then, thought about what I had committed to and started breathing heavily into a brown paper bag. I was panic stricken. I’m a talker. Not a speaker. I get on the computer and write a blog almost every day to keep the world up on my life. But I don’t know how to speak those words, I only know how to type them. I started thinking to myself, when do words come easiest for me when I’m not at the computer? And then I remembered. It’s when I’m having coffee or on the phone with my kids, my mom, or a friend. I hope my props won’t distract you, but this is the time I do my best talking….(Then I grabbed my cell phone and a coffee mug and acted like I would them for the whole speech)
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Denae, Jamie & Linda for asking me to share my story with you. I am honored, privileged, and scared to death, maybe that’s not a good choice of words for me. I’ll try not to cry, but if I do, please be patient with me. I’ve never been known to attend anything without crying. I cried when Nemo’s mom dies at the beginning of Finding Nemo and I’ve never lived that one down.
Honestly though, when I actually sat down to write this, words fell from above. I couldn’t write fast enough. I was so happy to have my 3 minutes of fame…complete. That was over a month ago. Then just a few short weeks ago, Denae called and said, “Hi, Doreen…I just wanted to let you know that we’ve given you a 15 minute block of time. I hope that’s enough.” That’s when I brought out the paper bag again. How could I possibly fill this time?
Then I went to lunch with my friend Cathy on Thursday. When we met, Cathy “re-gifted” a book of poems to me that I had once given her (that was once given to someone else for their retirement in 1985 from someone named Joyce). I’d originally bought this at a garage sale for 25 cents which for me is odd enough since garage sales start early in the morning on Saturdays and I don’t get out of bed on Saturdays until I have to. The reason I’d bought this book was because it was titled “When I think about you, my friend”. My children tease me about this my I can’t mention my friends names without mentioning “My friend” first. So, when my friend Cathy returned it to me this week she had written me a note on a page with a poem for me…and I’d like to share that with you: (then I read the poem...I'll share that with all of you later
As Mark Twain once said: Grief can take care of itself. But, to get the full value of joy, you must have someone to share it with.
This is where my story begins. At the age of 47, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Bronchio alveolar carcinoma. Sounds scary huh? It is. It’s Lung cancer. I thought I had pneumonia, or T.B. because I had a cough that just wouldn’t go away. I had never smoked, or grown up around smoke, I knew I’d never worked in a coal mine. I do burn candles but I can’t believe that makes enough smoke to effect me.…
I never imagined getting cancer since that wasn’t a common disease in my family, let alone having it be a cancer attached to a stigma, where the recipient is often times responsible for their own diagnosis. The survival rate for lung cancer isn’t very promising. My type of lung cancer is in the “rare” category. The doctors tell me it is inoperable and incurable. I was given a 1 in 5 chance of being alive a year after my diagnosis. And like usual, I volunteered. I figured if someone had to be the 1 out of 5, why not me? That was 13 months ago and here I am. Looking pretty healthy and feeling great.
My parents always told me that sometimes bad things happen to good people. So, I figured that was it. I just drew the short straw. I find that the statistics regarding survival are for people who are good with numbers. Thankfully for me, I’m terrible at math. So, I’m making my own statistics where no numbers are involved. Only moments. I LIVE EVERY SINGLE DAY. I LAUGH OUT LOUD & I DREAM BIG.
Friendship is not a private club reserved for only those outside your family. If you’re lucky enough, your closest friends will already be inside your family circle. If you’re really blessed, special people who touch your lives will be invited inside this circle and remain there forever, my circle is overflowing.
Since my diagnosis, friends have never failed to amaze me. They help me face the unimaginable with grace and dignity. They make me laugh when I don’t think I have anything to laugh about. They summon calmness, or anger or faith or adrenaline or whatever it takes to pull us through… and we all go on with another day.
I’m sure we’ve all wondered what we would do if faced with a sudden interruption in our otherwise content life. I know what I did and continue to do. To calm my turbulence, I reach out. Whether it be to my family, my friends or my faith, I know I’m NEVER alone. That touch, that smile, that word. That’s what keeps me going.
True friendships are RARE. They’re unconditional. They’re full of love and trust, laughter and forgiveness. They bring words of encouragement when we’re down, expressions of pride at our accomplishments and the sound of silence when we already know the answer.
My life is mostly made up of love, humor, Grey’s Anatomy and Starbucks – not necessarily in that order… (oh and a touch of cooking and cleaning just for good measure). For me this is contentment. This is what it’s all about. I have an apron that sums up my thoughts. It reads, “Life is what you pray for, Love is what you stay for” (you may be surprised by this, but that saying came from the side of a Starbuck’s cup…Coincidence? I think not.)
8 months after my diagnosis, 3 days before Christmas, we learned that my 50 year old husband, my high school sweetheart and best friend, had stage 4 colon cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes and liver. For a moment, just a brief moment…I questioned God. What was HE thinking? How could our family and friends deal with this? Selfish as it seems, I thought HOW could I handle it…why would you do this to me when I’m already feeling weak and vulnerable? Then I remembered. God doesn’t give us more than we can handle so at that moment, I figured he must believe I’m stronger than I thought. So I picked myself up…took a valium covered in dark chocolate (just kidding, it might have been a Zoloft) and forged ahead. God has a plan for us he just hasn’t sent me the blue prints yet. Rick’s surgery and chemo had been going well since late January, so I started to let my guard down (with the help from my friends and a little red wine) until March 13th. That was the day my dearest friend was diagnosed with breast cancer (or calcium deposits as she still refers to them). I really believed there had to be a mistake. Please let this be a mistake. Pam was my friend who had promised to love our children like her own if Rick and I weren’t around for them. She was Aunt Pammy. She was my “OLDER red-headed sister” She made me laugh at the most inappropriate times. I needed her. I needed her to be healthy. I needed her to be strong for me, for us. I know she’s going to beat this thing, but we have a lot of fun things planned for this summer and cancer treatment isn’t on the agenda. I don’t have enough medicine or enough dark chocolate to make this better, so I’ve handed it over. I’m going to have to let HIS blueprints do the job. Though sometimes I act like I’m just short of my PhD, we all know the truth. I’m just Doreen. A wife, mother, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, cousin, and Auntie and a friend (oh, and now I’m woman of the year but… we’re not talking about that). And I can’t fix this alone.
This is when the test of all my friendships took hold. Those who are true friends, never wavered. They didn’t flinch. They’ve been with me every step of the way. What’s funny about this is that they’ve always been here. Once we became friends, we’ve shared birthdays and anniversaries, stupid boyfriends, births, death, and illnesses , we’ve comforted each other when our children went away to college. We have coffee, and lunch and weekday getaways in the summers. We gave each other money to get our children out of jail (I’m just kidding…I was testing to see if you were all still listening). We laugh at each others jokes, even when they’re not funny or we’ve heard it 3 other times. They bought me Lee Press on toenails because the medicine made mine fall off. They helped me when I was a in a leg boot for 3 months because I did a “Superstar” stunt for my cheerleaders and ruptured my calf muscle. It’s only now since I’ve taken off the rose colored glasses and really looked at life, that is see everything clearly. Friendship IS worth it’s weight in gold. (This is why I’ve been putting on excess pounds…I want to be known as a really, really, good friend)
Oddly enough. Friendship is a lot like chocolate. Sweet. Satisfying. Sometimes messy. But always worth every savoring moment. Please take this time to look around the room at those who have touched your lives and remind them what their friendship means to you.
I'll write more tonight when I get back.
Love you more than friendship and chocolate.