Friday, 27 January 2012

For Bree

Somewhere on this blog I've said I'd been through worse. That holds true. Being diagnosed with cancer is obviously a horrible, horrible thing. But at the root of the matter, what everyone fears is that you'll lose the battle. Sure I was afraid of chemo. I was afraid of a lot of things. But more than anything I was afraid I was going to die. I was so afraid to leave everyone I loved. Because I knew what they would have to go through.

Six years ago today I lost one of the most important people in my life. She'd been my best friend since we were 9 years old. We did all of our growing up together. To this day I know exactly what she'd say to me in any given situation. She was someone so influential in my life, that if you know me, well then you know a part of her too. She was the weird to my spazz and she taught me everything good I've ever learned about friendship.

In order to appreciate that, you need to know that we went to an all-girls high school. Take your average high school scene and don't just double the estrogen, quadruple it.  Our friendship was blessed by never having had crushes on the same boy. That's rare amongst girlfriends. Even more rare was Bree's infectious good mood and ability to be happy for someone else. I'm sure we've all been the victims of our girlfriend's passive-aggressive put-downs. For example: you get a pair of hot boots for your birthday and your friend goes, "Must be nice to have parents with money". That wasn't Bree.

I will always remember the day that I got an A on my first History 12 test. This was a big deal because our teacher was a notorious hard ass (a hard ass I totally worshiped, mind you). Bree came running up to me, so genuinely happy that I had done that well... to the surprise of both her and most of the basketball team ;) I remember being self conscious for a moment. So many girl vs girl experiences had taught me to be wary of such a moment. Am I being set up for something? You know, the "You're pretty. Pretty ugly" set up. But she wasn't setting me up. She was genuinely happy for me. Ever since then I've known that THAT was the friend I wanted to be. By example, she taught me how much better it felt to enjoy someone's accomplishment than to envy them for it. At the same time, this ridiculous happiness for me may have lead me to pursue a BA in History. Super useful. I may need to re-think this awesome moment...

Anyhow, I wanted to give everyone an update. I am, for the most part, finished with my active treatments. I've had the bi-lateral mastectomy. It sucked. The drains sucked. It hurt more than I thought it would. It was endlessly frustrating re-learning how to do everything that I use my arms for. But that's mostly over now so I don't think about it too much. Radiation has also come and gone. My radiation team was awesome. If you had told me I'd actually enjoy going to radiation I would have told you to go take some more crazy pills. But wouldn't you know it, it wasn't so bad after all. My skin went from original recipe to extra-tasty crispy, but it was short lived. And they gave out candy at all the treatments. "Oh Ash! But you have cancer! You shouldn't be eating sugar!" Too late. I'm eating sour keys in honor of Breanne right now. You're all just going to have to deal with that. Like my oncologist said, "Why bother saving your life if you're not going to enjoy it once in a while?". I still see my plastic surgeon once a week and have a few follow ups to go, but I'm hoping that sometime soon one of these doctors is going to throw the word REMISSION at me. I'll let you know.

Back to Bree. Like I said. losing her was worse than any of this. When I was diagnosed, it felt like an immediate death sentence. I was already feeling everyone's future grief. When the panic faded and it became clear that I wasn't going to die - not just yet, thank you very much - I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. She was better than me. I was going to see this through and she wasn't going to see this at all. One of my oncologists told me later that he had me pegged at a 30% chance of making it. No matter what the percentage was, I had a fighting chance. Bree didn't. A drinking and driving car accident took her in a matter of seconds. This fantastic person, this girl, woman, friend, daughter, sister, a better, more fun and funny, more intelligent and more beautiful than most, was just gone one morning. Everything I've gone through since my diagnosis doesn't compare to her loss. Despite that percentage, I feel like there was never really any other option than for me to make it. Having said that, I'm so painfully aware that some people don't.

We've got friends dealing with this kind of loss right now. Shortly after my diagnosis, our friend's brother got his own cancer diagnosis. He was put through the ringer. And today is his funeral. Being diagnosed with cancer is a very isolating experience. And so is the loss of a loved one. People can feel for you, but you always feel as though no one really, truly gets it. Today I know that people I really care about, really and truly get it.  Now I know I'd actually prefer the isolation to having company in this kind of misery. S&C, if you're reading this, know that we're thinking of you.

What's next? That's the question I get most these days. To be honest I'm not sure. I guess there's going to be a bit of wait and see and then hopefully someday soon, someone will tell me I can stop holding my breath. Once again, I'll let you know.

Bree, je t'aimerai toujours.

Much love,
Ashlyn

P.S. AJM: You're pretty. Pretty awesome. I'm glad we got over that ;)

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