In 2000, I started an exercise class for breast cancer survivors as my way of giving back to the community. The class was held every week for seven years and averaged between eight and twelve people weekly.
When we lost access to the facility where I taught, the group resolved to meet every two months for dinner as our way of staying together as friends. Over the years, three of the original members died, three moved out of town, and one person was added to the group. We were now seven women with a shared history and shared lives.
My heart sunk when I thought about the next dinner. So far, I had told only family members and two friends about my diagnosis — but I had to tell the women in the group. They’re my support, my extended family, my co-survivors.
* * * * *
After everyone orders dinner, I wait for a millisecond break in the conversation and say clearly, “I have an announcement to make.”
I stare out the window at cars circling the parking lot so I don’t have to look into anyone’s eyes.
“My cancer is back.”
Silence crashes the table like a bomb lobbied through the window.
“It was diagnosed two weeks ago but I’ve known for about a month.”
Murmurs of “Oh my God,” “I’m so sorry.” Arms around my shoulders. I am a blur trying to find solidity in a circle of friends.
Dinner arrives. I continue my story with all details. Several women pick at their food, barely eating.
We are here to celebrate but I’ve ruined the party. I put a pall over the evening, a rock-heavy cape on everyone’s shoulders.
But my friends understand, and every single one of them will love and support me when I need them.
9 thoughts on “Friends and Survivors”
Meredith, it sort of seems Like a strange response to this, but your writing is exquisite. Tears are streaming down my face…we’ve never met in person, but our years together at BWS and Facebook, and wearing your beautiful jewelry next to my heart, make me feel like we’ve been friends for a very long time. I sit at a different table, a long walk from the table in your blog here, but know that I’m here as a friend with deep love and heart-felt support too.
My jewelry is my way of bringing beauty into the world, although I’ve always felt that writing is my greatest gift. I don’t publish a lot because it’s from such a deep place in my soul, but I knew I had to share this. BTW, I re-read your book about 6 months ago, beautiful as always.
I remember you sharing some of the poetry you wrote while going through your first cancer…it was exquisite, and I have long felt that writing is your great gift to the world, to us.
It means a lot to hear that you reread my book! Wow! Thank you! I still occasionally hear positive feedback, someone even recently told me it saved his life! Which was very humbling but joyful to hear. But for the most part, the book has quietly disappeared into obscurity.
We write what we need to, at the time in our life when we need to say it. Because I’m private in many ways, I’ve always had the conundrum of when to share and when to keep the writing for myself only. I’m glad that person reached out to you! Having gone through this twice — cancer is depressing and overwhelming for almost everyone. If I can make one person know they’re not alone, it’s worth coming out of my shell.
I can so understand you hesitating in sharing the news with the group. It was another step to confirming what is going on in your body. But it is also a step in confirming what a wonderful support system you have. I can imagine those who have gone on this same journey know best what to say. I admit, sometimes I’m at a loss for words, like what Georgia said. I admit, sometimes I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing or too much. So I will simply say, you are in my prayers, and in my positive thoughts. And I’m a strong believer in that third dimension that can give you strength. I know it works!
Angelika, I’m not afraid to say things as I see them, so neither should you be. Anyone who knows me, knows — if you said something completely asinine (and I can’t imagine that you would, ever) I’d be the first person to tell you where to take it. The hardest part of telling the gals at dinner — three of our original members died, two from cancer metastasis. I knew everyone would immediately think about that, and they’d all be afraid I was next. I have some of the most incredible friends, both in person and online, and their love and support is helping me immensely.
An incredible person has incredible friends. Bless you.
I have always felt that you Merideth would be the woman I would go to….IF…and my life has had some down days balanced beautifuly by sweet day with loved ones in lovely spaces I strive to find in this wonderful life.
I fully agree that your writing is indeed special…thank you for sharing words woven by your talent.
Love and light from Eunice
Eunice, we have always had that connection, and I’m honored that you think of me like that. Thanks from my heart ♥
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