There are plenty of phantom-friends, fair-weather friends and friends that are around as long as the going is good.
Good friends are around whatever the situation, whatever your status and no matter how dire things look or how sick you are.
Really good friends are like pixie dust, magical and full of surprises.
When I was first diagnosed with cancer a few people told me my illness would be the acid test, that it would enable me to distinguish fair-weather friends from true friends who’d continue to scatter their magical pixie dust for me no matter how bad things became. I never wanted to believe this was the case, I fought hard to resist the idea despite some persuasive arguments from people who’d walked the critical illness path before me and found themselves abandoned by some of their dearest friends.
I wanted to believe everyone I held dear would prove to be a true friend irrespective of my absence and my illness but sadly I was proven wrong.
A very good and true friend helped me understand this phenomena. She explained some people find the prospect of cancer, scary treatments and the closeness of our own mortality too difficult to deal with. It’s not that they don’t care it’s just that they don’t know how to handle me or the thought of death so discontinuing the friendship is the only option they can see. To paraphrase, it wasn’t me, it was them. I accept that explanation and yet I still feel sorry for the friends I’ve loved and lost over the course of the past year.
Most of us get old and when we get old we tend to get sick. I’d have liked to be old with you. Instead I’m young and sick and dealing with it because that’s the only choice I have. Maybe one day when you’re old and face being sick you’ll understand. With luck I’ll still be around then and having done the critical illness thing thirty-odd years before you I won’t be intimidated by my own mortality (or yours). I’ll still be able-bodied enough to offer support and compassion. When all is said and done they’re the only things that matter and they can’t be bought or sold. Good friends know this and continue to bring their pixie dust even when life looks difficult and scary. I’m fortunate to have some really good friends and I sincerely hope nothing bad ever happens to them but if it should, I’ll be by their side in a flash.
I will never be able to thank my really good friends for the love and kindness they show me. There are no words or gestures that can convey what your friendship means to me. The guy who called me today and apologised for not calling more often (you’ve kept in touch and that’s what matters), the girl friend who came to hospital with me, helped me have the most fun I’ve had in ages and made me totally forget I’m a cancer patient for a few days. That was awesome! The couple who cried when they saw me last weekend because we’ve only been able to talk by phone since May 2012, the other girl friend who visited a couple of weeks back and took me out for lunch. The two guys I’ve known for ages who check on me regularly and are always ready to offer a hug, real or virtual along with words of wisdom. The members of my previous team who’ve kept in touch, come to visit and regularly ask how things are going. My cousin who despite being in a different time zone always manages to maintain contact. My elderly aunt who doesn’t enjoy perfect health herself and my Dad who works the most ridiculous hours but still finds time to call me every day. We’re all still here, we’ve all been through a lot, I’m guessing my illness may well have been scary for you too yet we’re still friends and most of us are still smiling like lunatics. (It’s the way forward I’m sure 😉 )
Thank you all for being the pixie dust that keeps the magic of life alive even in the darkest moments. I hope with all my heart that you never go through this kind of experience but I also hope I’ll someday have the chance to bring some pixie dust into your lives too.