Joanie and I have been friends since we were 23. We met at a party in Boston, and discovered we had gone to the same college and even graduated the same year! At that party we stared at each other and each said, I don’t think I EVER saw you on campus! Guess we moved in different circles. Still, Joan and I became immediate friends. One reason became apparent the second time we met and got talking. Joan grew up with, and still lives with, Cystic Fibrosis. I’d had insulin dependent diabetes since 13. Ha! – chronic illness was a bonding point! While our diseases were different, the stresses they produced were similar. Joan and I both viewed our lives very positively, despite our conditions. Both CF and diabetes are SERIOUS — it’s easy to despair, and we each knew others suffering with our diseases who lived with great despair. Joan and I would mull over why it was that we were able to feel positive while others could not. Was it because our individual diseases were a bit easier/less serious, or were our diseases easier because of our positive attitude? No one can really say. I cannot criticize people with diabetes who are pessimistic as their disease causes great harm. And I do not claim that my doing well with diabetes is because of a positive attitude. Joan feels the same about living with CF. I should add, both our diseases are tough, but CF is much more serious, and Joan is a super hero. She is devoted to curing CF as a volunteer and professionally, and her ability to look pain in the eye is astonishing. She somehow manages to accomplish more than most people without any ailments. One example: how many people reading this have run a marathon?!!
Four years after we met, when we were 27, Joan got diabetes! No, no, no, I shrieked! No, no, no, you already have enough to deal with! But yep, Joan had to start taking shots, testing her blood, and balancing her food, exercise, and insulin same as me. And she still had to take her many, many oral medications for CF and do periodic physical therapy to clear her lungs. In a way I felt guilty, I only had diabetes, and Joan now had my disease as well as her own. At least I was able to help out a bit — teach her some diabetes tricks of the trade. To this day we still compare notes on diabetes stratagem!
Fast forward to age 50. I’d gone through my first battle with breast cancer six years earlier, and all the doctors predicted I would be fine. But just after I turned 50, my oncologist made that evening phone call to tell me that my cancer was back, now metastatic. My first question: can it be cured? No. Once it has spread from the original cancer it does not go away. But you can live for ‘many’ years he said encouragingly. Many? How many is many? The answer: five, ten, fifteen years.
Fifteen did not seem horrible, but gotta say, five years did NOT seem like ‘many’ frick’n years.
It was not easy getting used to the idea of cancer again, this time, a cancer that was not curable. Some people like to label metastatic breast cancer as a chronic illness, thinking that sounds encouraging. Oh boy, another chronic illness! When I told Joanie about it, she shrieked — No, no, no! How unfair! You’ve already had enough to deal with. No, no, no.
Ah, me and Joanie and our chronic illness count.
Hey Joanie, guess what? I think I’ve one upped you. I win! Or are we tied again : )
ONWARD for us both!