How My Life Has Changed Since Losing My Best Friend To Cancer
It doesn’t get easier; time doesn’t heal these types of wounds. People will try to tell you it’ll get better. You can’t fault them for being full of sh*t because they don’t have anything else to say.
They can’t tell you you’ll have days where all you'll want to do is crawl into the dirt. There will be days where you'll leave 18 voicemails to a phone that hasn’t been used in years. There will be nights where sleep is impossible, as you live life in flashbacks to the moment you got the news.
There is no assuaging the pain of someone who has just lost a loved one to cancer.
You can tell me it’ll get better until you’re blue in the face, but the reality of the situation is, I still have the same feelings I did the night I was told my best friend had lost her battle with Leukemia.
No matter how much I age, I’ll always be that 15-year-old sobbing mess, collapsing to her kitchen floor and refusing to get up for 12 hours.
It doesn’t get easier, but you get stronger. You learn to field the pain with peace. You learn to find hope in the mundane.
It’s been five years since I lost my best friend, Sonia. Five years of empty answers and crying, of doubting God and questioning what kind of world lets someone so pure of heart suffer from such a selfish disease.
The harsh reality of time is it keeps going, even if you don’t want to. You are given 24 hours each day to decide how you want to live. Life is the ultimate “Choose Your Own Adventure” game.
I chose to not let my best friend’s memory fade. I chose to take the kind and loving qualities she possessed and spread them, to live a life inspiring other patients and survivors.
Through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s “Light the Night” walk, I created "Team Sonia." This not only helped me heal, but also helped the hundreds of others who are searching for a day without cancer.
In what felt like the blink of an eye, I went from a team captain to a member of the walk’s executive board.
As my scope broadened, so did the people I was able to help. I had my share of “aha” moments, where I sat back and believed that, just maybe, I was supposed to be doing this.
I was no longer just fundraising. I was lobbying, finding sponsorships and planning events. The happiness was bittersweet, but it was still happiness.
But there are moments weaker than others, moments when the walls crumble and you allow yourself to fall to pieces for a little bit. They appear in the most covert of ways. The memory of a loved one sneaks in unannounced and sticks to your brain.
You notice the little qualities she had, but in someone else. You never realized how much you missed them. Then, they become all you can in see in this person.
Suddenly, they’re not that person anymore: They’re her coming back to you.
But then, you hate yourself in more ways than one. Not only did you try to fully change someone else to fit your needs, you tried to replace her. Suddenly, your emotions are one big bundle of knots you can’t seem to untangle.
So, you settle with anger being crossed with lust and sadness being overlapped with short bursts of ecstasy. You keep pawing at this mess of knots, and in doing so, you’re pulling yourself in 10,000 directions and stretching your state of mind even thinner than it was four seconds ago.
Who is the only person who has ever sat with you and worked all night to unravel the chaos, with the patience of a saint?
Oh, right. Her.
I spent a lot of time feeling guilty. I guess that’s a byproduct of regret, the constant parade of “shouldas and “couldas," trying to imagine doing the impossible was an option.
I harped on how many times I didn’t tell my best friend I loved her. I think of all the missed opportunities I could have reminded her how much she meant to me. It sounds foolish to think this would have changed the outcome, but I was at a loss.
The sadness never really goes away.
We wear it on our bodies in our own unique ways. To some, it is the comfort of a large sweater. To others, it is the delicate necklace they never take off. I understand the appeal in wrapping myself up in the special type of agony.
If you can remember the pain, you can remember the person. I’ve always been afraid of forgetting. Forgetting the way her laugh sounded, how she’d toss her hair when she was trying to make a point and the look I’d get when I did something outlandishly stupid.
Yet, I grapple with those recollections, becoming saturated with sadness.
My best friend picked me up from the rubble, and showed me what I could build with it. In the subtlest of ways, she showed me what it meant to be a compassionate being.
So, instead of worshipping this phantom of heartbreak and loss that has followed me for so long, I choose to embrace the memories of what was. I choose to be unapologetically enchanted by the lovely girl with the raven black hair, who helped me view life though a lens of extraordinary possibility.