I have a good friend who has cancer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer last fall, had 3 surgeries, and has been undergoing a grueling series of chemo and radiation treatments that started in January and will last until the end of May. Like many others, she has a CaringBridge website that allows her to stay in touch with friends and family around the country, and keeps us updated on her condition.

This lovely person has a wonderful sense of humor, and it is beautifully on display in her journal updates. She jokes about her “day at the nuclear spa”. She says, “I absolutely look like Molting Ostrich Girl, which is quite hilarious. I am collecting a wonderful assortment of ridiculous wigs and headgear, the newest one a fiery red mohawk hat.”

But she has also found the strength to honestly share how hard the long battle with cancer is, and to trust that we will hang with her, that we do not need jokes all the time to make it bearable. I so much appreciate her sharing the dark side of cancer with us. I have been lucky in that, so far, we haven’t had any family members diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t know that when you’re having weekly chemo sessions, you get one “good” day a week–the day before your next session, when you plunge down the chemo cliff again, your mind engulfed in a chemo haze and your body barely able to walk. She says, “The basic news is that it’s darn tough, not a little frightening, a lot lonely, and a huge challenge across the physical, emotional and spiritual spectrums. Those aren’t bad things, however. Hope springs eternal! ”

It is so hard to open up and let people know the darkness you are dealing with. My friend is a very strong, vibrant person. And now she has found the strength to be dependent, to feel anger at the setbacks, to need support. As she put it so well in her most recent post: “I thank my friends for staying close to me, and for pushing me to let you help me. I deflect with humor and try to make it easy to be around me, and realize that I have a really tough time showing my vulnerability. Part of the journey to the other side is getting your rear end kicked, and learning to let a lot go!”