I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.

~ Helen Keller

Those of you who know me or who read my last blog post on May 30, 2018, know I’ve been going through a very dark time in my life. I had a bad mammogram on January 29th and, following an ultrasound and needle biopsy, I was diagnosed with cancer in my left breast on February 12th. It was my third occurrence. The next seven weeks were consumed with appointments with my oncological surgeon, a genetics counselor, and a plastic surgeon. On Friday, April 6 at 11:11 am, I had a mastectomy and reconstruction with a saline implant. Surgery lasted 3 1/2 to 4 hours and was successful in every way. My surgeon got it all, and my lymph node was cancer free.

Scheduling the oncological surgeon and the plastic surgeon on the same day and at the same time was a little complicated, but as soon as I knew my surgery date, I called my best forever friend, Tanya Boaz. We’ve known each other over fifty-two years, and she’s the closest to the sister I’ve never had than anyone I’ve ever known. When she answered the phone, I asked, “What are you doing the first week in April?” I will forever remember her reply, “Tell me when you need me and I’ll be there.”

And she was. She arrived on Wednesday, April 4 and stayed until Wednesday, April 25. During those three difficult weeks she drove me to follow-up appointments, took notes for me, and was my staunch advocate and protector during a traumatic and totally inappropriate incident with my now former oncologist.

Tanya grocery shopped, cleaned house, and did laundry. She cooked all my meals and made me eat, even when I had no appetite. She took care of my two old needy cats…food, cat box, cleaning up their puke. Made me rest when I couldn’t sleep, which was most every night. Tanya refused to let me lift anything remotely heavy and watched endless episodes of Grace and Frankie and Chef’s Table…the only programs I’d watch.

Tanya watered my plants and took care of the flowers being delivered. Ran errands to the post office and pharmacy. She put up with the many quirks of my ancient house, and tolerated my quirks, as well. (I wasn’t always the ideal patient!) In lighter moments, we just hung out and and talked and laughed at shared memories…as well as at the absurdities and indignities cancer brings with it. Our laughter was, indeed, the best medicine I was given throughout it all!

Tanya was the only person who saw the whole of what I went through. The only witness to my darkest days and nights. My darkest hours. She saw my pain and my fear and my rage and my depression. She saw what I wouldn’t show the world. She saw me the Sunday before she was due to leave when I had a total emotional breakdown and I shook and sobbed and raged and had a major pity-party for hours. She brought me water and a wet washrag and held my hand and asked me if I wanted her to change her flight and stay. And I almost said, “Yes, please.” But I knew Tanya was exhausted and rundown from caregiving. She missed her home and her grandson and her life. I knew she needed to go home. And I needed to be able to let her go. I calmed myself and said I’d let her know. When she left, as planned, we both cried.

Throughout the entire three weeks, Tanya exemplified grace and love and patience. I truly could not have survived without her. It’s a testimony to our friendship and our love (especially hers!) that there was no tension between us the entire time she was here. People use the phrase “like sisters,” but I’m sure sisters would have fought at some point! I missed Tanya when she left and I cried and I was able to carry on. She’d made sure of it. She left the house in good order, the refrigerator full, and with the promise to return whenever I need her. And I have no doubt it’s a promise she will keep.

Never, for a moment, do I take for granted the blessing in my life that is Tanya. I know most people never have a friend like this, and I am forever grateful I do. Thank you, Tanya. I love you with all my heart.

Read more about Tanya and our friendship in Soul Foodie. And, here’s one last quote:

You only really fall apart in front of the people you know can piece you back together.

~Sarah Dessen