My friend’s name is Kiki. It’s short for Christine. It’s also short for resilient, warrior, badass, heroine, and inspiration.
“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.”
― Elizabeth Edwards
Learning That Kiki Has Cancer
Completely and utterly shocked.
I heard about Kiki’s cancer from a mutual friend. She was at Stage 3, and we knew it could go either way. Kiki taught Crossfit, ate nutritiously, and in our minds, this was an impossible diagnosis. Seeing her for the first time, I felt like a blundering idiot. I did not know what to say; there was nothing I could say. My words could not comfort her or change her situation. It is the most helpless feeling looking your wounded friend in her soulful, brown eyes and feeling completely impotent.
I learned that seeing friends was just as awkward for Kiki.
“I had a few visitors here and there, which was okay. I had them when I needed them. I believe most people don’t know what to do when this happens. That’s one thing I learned from all this.”
I think she’s right. Most well-intentioned people don’t know what to do.
Surgery, Chemo, then Radiation
Kiki was diagnosed in the early fall. Weeks passed, and as the holidays grew closer, I watched my friend deteriorate before my eyes.
First, there was surgery, and then chemo and radiation. This trifecta ravished her body like a tornado leaving a building gutted and destroyed. She was pale, thin, and weak. How could I lie and tell her she looked good when she looked like the walking dead?
Instead, I ignored the obvious; I think many of her friends did. We went about life as normally as we could. I don’t know if this was the right course to choose, but I could see Kiki trying to rebuild herself mentally.
Monday Night Soccer
Monday nights we played soccer. Kiki’s small frame disappeared in her soccer shorts and tee. Her usual speed and skill had diminished like her once athletic body. She got out on the pitch and tried to keep up; she needed to feel normal, and we needed to go along with her attempt at normality.
How Kiki Survived Cancer
This is how my beautiful friend, Kiki, survived cancer in her own words.
Getting Dressed Everyday
“I started chemo and radiation everyday for 28 days. What I learned from this was get up and get dressed everyday; it truly does make you feel better. Regardless of how I truly felt, at least I appeared somewhat put together.”
“I made all my appointments at 8 am. I actually didn’t have any reasoning for this except, in retrospect, it forced me to GET UP. I forced myself to take a shower and get dressed. This alone made me feel better. I didn’t realize it at first, but now I do.”
“When I would see others come in for their treatment and wait with me, they looked so sick. They honestly looked like they rolled out of bed and dragged themselves in. They LOOKED sick. I didn’t want to be like them. I don’t really know how they felt, but I felt sick. At least outwardly, I didn’t appear as sick as they were or weren’t.”
The Never-Ending Doctor Appointments
After Kiki finished treatment, it still wasn’t over. She endured endless follow-up doctor appointments. She told me that these will last forever. They will be jolting reminders that she almost lost her life and, at the same time, endless reminders that she is blessed to still be here. Then, there is the unavoidable reflection–why me, why now, and what is the take away.
An Endless Fog
Kiki continues her story:
“Trying to put into words how an experience like this has changed me makes me a little sad. I feel that these last 4 years have been a fog. I don’t know if that happens to everyone, but it has to me.”
“I can’t focus. “
Taking One Day at a Time
“I don’t view the future with too much certainty because I realize that at any moment it can be altered or taken. I don’t feel the joy I used to feel about the “holidays” because it reminds me of an incredibly scary, lonely time when I couldn’t be scared and was surrounded by people that wanted to ignore what was happening to me because it was too painful for them.”
“I had to be strong because that is what I have always been and know that is what I will always be. I felt very alone. People were uncertain what to ask me, as I’m sure happens to many. I learned you really can’t take anything for granted which sounds very cliche, but very true.” ‘
Surrounding Myself with Supportive Friends
“I learned that people you should count on aren’t always the people who come through. I learned that the right people do show up at the right time. I also learned life continues, and people go about their lives while yours has stopped. I have learned to take some risks and seize the moment.”
“If I want to really do something, I do what I have to to make it work. I learned I want to live–I mean really live. I’m still navigating through this one, but I’m getting there. I also learned that to truly maneuver through this crazy, uncertain world you need friends.”
Suggested Read: Life Is Too Short: Go After The Things That Matter Most
“Whether your friends come in the form of family members or those you have chosen to be as close as family, they are a significant part of healing the mental scars left from cancer. My friends that matter were with me from the beginning and are still here to this day.”
The Next Journey – Remission
Kiki’s friends will continue this journey with her. We will be by her side for every follow up appointment anxiously waiting to hear the good news that she’s still in remission. We will listen to her lessons. She’s taught us to embrace each moment and live with a little ‘wildness’–that is, act on dreams today instead of waiting until tomorrow; grab new opportunities and enjoy the ride; take a few risks; and never lose your sense of adventure.
Kiki, we love you and thank you for the wake-up!
Suggested Read: Finding Gratitude In Life’s Ordinary Moments