Bittersweet . . .

8 Apr

I’ve been working on organizing things at home – like medical records, what to keep, what to shred. Clothes, what to keep, what to donate. It has been a while since I have been able to tend to things at home. I finally have had some time outside of work – 15 hour days running my business (which I thoroughly enjoy doing) I am not finally able to spend some time working on some things at home. I don’t think I have done that in a few years – instead it has been all about work, work, work and more work 🙂

I really haven’t had time for much of anything other than work for the past few years now. Restarting a business was a challenge, but extremely rewarding. It has been very satisfying to reboot my business after cancer  – but doing that left little time for anything else but work. And, let’s face it, it isn’t like cancer just up and ends one day and you immediately go back to your life. Nope, no way. Although, I would like to believe that and still see it as a goal of mine 🙂

When I think back on the past several months even – with a reconstructive surgery not that long ago – it is kind of amazing that I am doing what I am doing (okay, it was only outpatient surgery, but still). I played my first post op gig this past weekend. It didn’t even occur to me until I was just a few hours away from playing my beast of an instrument that maybe it wouldn’t go so well given I only had surgery two months ago. But, it worked out and I had no problems.

I spent my weekend among friends. I enjoyed playing music with a new group and at a new venue. I got in a really great work out today. I took a walk on the beach this evening and watched a beautiful sunset. I walked home and thought to myself how lucky I am to live here, to be alive and to be well. Life is good.

Some years back there were days where walking was so labored and slow. And, there were days when I could not walk at all. And, there were those days that were plagued with thoughts of death and complete despair. It is quite something to be taking the kind of walks I am taking today. It is quite something.


So I came home from my walk and posted a few sunset photos to Facebook (see above). I don’t know if it is the home organizing mode I have been in, but for the first time I noticed that I had “58 unread messages” on Facebook. How does one not notice that? Okay, well, I don’t pay much attention to Facebook really, that is how…

I immediately thought: I bet these are from 2009 or 2010 – the year I lost to cancer. Hmmm. I proceeded to look at those messages and I was about knocked out. Some were the: “hey, checking in to see how you are doing” kind of messages and some were offers of help. I started to cry. Reading through one message after the next. Tears over all of the kindness, concern and simply missed messages. All went unanswered. Although certainly some were from people that I connected with by other means – so they were not technically un-responded to, still, just sad. And, then it got worse. As I read through message after message I started to really feel anxious and worried over what I thought could be there waiting for me, what I thought I could have missed.

And there it was a message from a friend who is now gone. And then another message from her . . .

My heart sank as I clicked on it to read her words. Words I was supposed to read years ago.

She was diagnosed around the same time as me, with a similar diagnosis, we met online and became friends. Not long after completing treatment for early stage breast cancer, she had a recurrence. The cancer came back and this time it was stage IV – metastatic – the kind of breast cancer that kills.

I never saw either of her last two Facebook messages until today. Over two years after her death I am reading her words; and somehow I am devastated and grateful all at once. So happy and grateful to see her words again, even though I never had the opportunity to reply. But feeling her death all over again.

Thankfully it wasn’t my last communication with her – it was just the last communication through Facebook. I missed it, and now I have two messages that I can no longer reply to because she is gone.

That damn chemo fog and treatment roller-coaster took away a lot of days and a lot of focus. I missed out on those messages. Weird. Strange. My heart feels empty and full at the same time and very sad. I am grateful for her words and grateful that I saw them today. Such a gift. But, I am reminded of how much I miss her – not that I needed reminding. I think of her all of the time.

One of the hardest things about cancer is also the best thing about cancer (cuz let’s face it, there are so many “best” things . . . NOT).

Best: the people I have met that I would never have met.

Worst: the people I have lost and will lose.

That is the worst, worst thing ever.

I never would have imagined in a million years that such connections could be forged online. But, when another friend passes away, a friend that I have never even met in person, it is a very real and palpable and deeply felt loss. All of us here in this cancer blogosphere/twitter-sphere/etcetera-sphere know this.

It has been a tough few years for so many. Sigh. We need a cure.

Love and peace,





3 Responses to “Bittersweet . . .”

  1. Carolyn April 9, 2014 at 8:07 AM #

    Lisa, I cried when I read this mainly because I understand how emotional it can be trying to get your emotions and strength back and not being able to do the things you always had time and clear thinking to do. I have three messages on my answering machine from a dear friend who passed 2 yrs. ago and I can’t bring myself to erase them. Good luck with your organizing, I too am at that stage. Trying to catch up on the things I neglected and not quite up to the task. Love ya

    • cancerfree2b April 10, 2014 at 9:05 AM #

      Awe Carolyn, I am sorry for your tears and especially sorry for your loss. I won’t be deleting my friend’s messages anytime soon. I love what you said: “trying to get your emotions and strength back . . . ”

      I always think about this recovery process in terms of the physical – how I can physically do this or that again, how I can ride a bike again, run, work 15 hours straight if I have too, again, host Christmas dinner for my family again, etc.

      But, I have rarely every thought about it as regaining emotional strength or recovering in that way. Thank you for pointing that out.

      I was recently visiting with a friend of mine who is caring for a family member that is going through chemotherapy for breast cancer. She said: “So now that you are past chemotherapy and everything is fine you must not even think about cancer or any of it anymore. It must be just a distant memory for you.”

      I was stunned. I don’t talk about it with her at all – other than the kind of talk to help support her Mom who is going through breast cancer. She doesn’t know of my blog and so has no idea that it is something that isn’t simply just a distant memory I guess. It was weird for me to hear that from her. I almost felt embarrassed or maybe guilty for not being the way she described me to be.

      I mulled that statement over in my head on my way home from meeting up with her last night and then when I got home I learned that my friend I have known since childhood had slipped away (brain cancer returned a few months ago and was untreatable, she has been in hospice). As much as I was expecting her death, I wasn’t prepared in any way.

      Sigh. Wow, well what a ramble of a response. Sorry.

      I found a great article last night in the New Yorker about loss. It is a good read. I will post it here soon. Beautifully written and I found it very helpful.

      Love you to Carolyn.



  1. Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer - April 12, 2014

    […] Lisa is writing about the friendships we forge online – and how bittersweet these can be. […]

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