Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Weep with those who weep

Two years ago in January I got an email from a friend saying "can you call me please." That email was in response to a message I had sent simply saying "???????????????????"

A month or so earlier she had gone for her annual mammogram and had been called back because of some anomalies in the scan. They told her 'don't worry, it's very common' and yet we had worried. And so, on the scheduled day I waited and wondered and I sent the '???' email asking for the update. Of course, what I wanted to hear - what we had both convinced ourselves we would hear - was 'everything is fine; it was a false alarm; no worries' but what I got was 'can you call me please'. I knew then, of course, that it wasn't good news. You don't give bad news over email. You share bad news in person - or at least 'in voice'. And so I called. And we talked. And talked. And talked.

That was two years ago January. This January she was given a very positive report - following the surgery and treatment that she'd endured back in 2007 - and told 'see you next year'. The best words possible.

My friend is - apart from me maybe - the most private person I know. She told 7 people that she had breast cancer. Her partner (who was overseas for most of that year), me and 3 other friends, her sister, and her boss. That was it. She went for her appointments - grudgingly agreeing to have one of her friends accompany her to the first one - had her surgery and her treatments and continued her day to day work. Amazing. She never told her staff, her co-workers, her peers - no one outside of those 7 people. For weeks she went to Princess Margaret in the morning and then arrived late at work. She's sure her staff wondered about her absences; gossiped; made up stuff; whatever. And yet she was adamant that no one know. She didn't want anyone to feel sorry for her, to cut her any slack because she was 'sick', to know her personal life. She faced her dark night of the soul almost entirely alone. Doing housework to keep her mind occupied; talking, albeit briefly, to her four closest friends; working extra hours.

I often wondered - considering now pathologically private I am as well - how I might react in a similar circumstance. I expect that I would do this same thing. I expect that I would be even more private. In fact, I know that I would.

I so admire people who have a network they can reach out to. Friends they can commiserate with. In the words of St. Paul 'rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep'

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