You know, we make friends under the strangest circumstances and in the most trying situations. It is part of the resilience of the human spirit, I think.
Nearly a year ago my ordeal with cancer began, and it has been a terrible year, but a couple of great things have come out of it. I met some terrific people at the radiation clinic, and I am recovered...mostly.
Marquetta Ryan, Barbara Foster, another woman I shall call Sheila, and I met and became friends sitting in the reception area of Georgia Radiation Center. We shared our tears and fears and knew the true meaning of exhaustion.
I don’t care how prepared you think you are when you enter a treatment center, you always have trepidation. Dr. Gargus and his staff are the kindest of people, but it is still not a place you want to be. We four women would be sitting together in the early hours of the morning. Jason and the other staff members always smiled and greeted us, but we four knew we shared the unique bond of going through this experience. We were alike although our journeys differed somewhat.
During the time of my treatments, several times I shut down the center with tears not only from exhaustion but from dealing with Mama’s declining health. In this dreadful year, Mama became ill and died. The faces that helped me through this time belonged to Barbara, Marquetta and Sheila.
Barbara accompanied her husband John for his multiple treatments of radiation and chemotherapy. A vibrant couple with great humor, they faced the worst situation of us all. In that waiting room, Barbara was everybody’s rock. She visited with each of us, updating us on John’s progress and checking on how we were doing. Sadly, Barbara watched John wither and pass away in March.
Also always checking on everyone else, Marquetta kept us all going. Although she had moved away from Snellville, Marquetta came back often to visit her daughters and their families. Marquetta had maintained her relationships with her doctors here, and on one of her visits she had what she thought was her routine checkup. That two-week visit turned into a stay of more than a year as she endured chemo and radiation following a mastectomy. Had she been at her home in Pennsylvania, she would’ve been more than an hour and a half away from a treatment center. She was blessed to be here and to be able to stay with her children for the duration of her treatments and recovery.
Sheila had breast cancer and opted for radiation only. She usually warmed up the table for the rest of us. Sheila worked throughout all her treatments. A very private person, she chose not to notify her co-workers or most of her friends. She did have an amazing support group in her family, however. True, we were all dealing with terrible things. Our energies were low and emotions were high. We found humor where we could, compared burns and progress and supported each other.
We looked for the smallest pleasures. Marquetta had eyelashes growing in. John had been able to eat something the night before. Our greatest pleasure was our bonding.
We have become true friends. Every time Marquetta, who has returned to Pennsylvania, comes to town, we meet for breakfast. Her hair has come in curly; she has eyebrows as well as eyelashes, and she has the most delightful laugh. Her children try to keep her busy and take her to dinner frequently. Barbara still has her rough days of missing John. Sheila is still working and is doing well.
My days are better now, too. It takes a while to recover your strength and energy and to deal with all the other aspects of life.
As I look back over this last year, the greatest joy was meeting these women who got me through the toughest time of my life and gave me laughter. Now we have replaced our bond of cancer with a bond of respect and friendship. Can’t do better than that.