This Year, I’m Thankful My Friend’s Struggle With Cancer is Over

This Year, I’m Thankful My Friend’s Struggle With Cancer is Over

Suzanne recently passed away after a long fight with cancer. What I am thankful for is that it is over.

This year, as I sit and contemplate the things I’m thankful for, I think about my best friend, Suzanne. Suzanne recently passed away after a long fight with cancer. What I am thankful for is that it is over.

I don’t mean to be callous. We all wish this story had a different ending. But for the last three years, Suzanne’s circle of friends and I, who were Suzanne’s caregivers, all knew it was a battle she could not win. It wasn’t my first time as a caregiver, and so I had some idea how hard taking care of Suzanne during her fight would be. But the reason I am truly thankful the fight is over is not for us, but for her.

Suzanne was a force to be reckoned with. Vivacious and opinionated, throughout her life the things that mattered most to her were here mother and her friends. And she had many friends – good enough friends that we all pitched in with the caregiving.

I remember the moment well, when she told me about a lump on her breast and we took another sip of wine and laughed about how we were at an age where a little surgery to improve the lay of the land is welcome anyways. Not for one moment did we think this would be the start of the end. I remember thinking, as most people probably do, Not Suzanne, she’s too lively, there’s too much fight in her. And yet, only weeks later after her diagnosis of late-stage disease that had already spread, we had to face the fact that we needed to get everything possible from life in time that was now short.

Immediately, her friends rallied. We made a bucket list and started checking things off, arranging a sign-up system for travel, scheduling lunches and other life events. And more and more, those schedules and systems revolved around care instead of fun – we could plan care, but fun was more ephemeral, more spontaneous, and we had to take what we could get. The lives of all of the people giving care had to be flexible, built around making as many good memories as possible while dealing with the bad ones that we were building at the same time — whether we wanted to or not.

The first year was packed with a grueling schedule of chemo and radiation and I still have no idea how Suzanne managed to handle it all and still have the passion and determination to fill her free time with so much travel, socializing, and love. We all were, of course, keeping on our brave faces. We made chemo trips fun picnics and doctor appointments dry and scientific, because that is what she needed.

My last trip with Suzanne was to Scotland and while the trip was doomed from the start with lice (don‘t ask), minor accidents, and 4-wheel mishaps (again, don‘t ask), it my last memory of Suzann that is untainted by doctor, or tasks, or caretaking.

Due to a possible new medication, we were just starting to make plans again. The drug didn’t promise a cure, but there was hope of having a bit more time while feeling reasonably ok. The friends group re-activated to pick favorite trips. Not as far as before. But we had plans. Plans to make memories again.

Suzanne (left), with Douglas (center, of course), and Rosy

Sadly, these plans were not meant to be and just as we all started to free our schedules to make time count, Suzanne suddenly got worse and within a few short weeks, she was gone.

It’s only been a few months and it is still hard to think of all the plans we had. Harder still, to think about the years of memories that we created since we met as teenagers. But while I would have loved more time to create new ones, I know that it is better this way: To go quickly with plans in your heart.

And so, this year, I am thankful for two things. I am thankful that her journey with cancer is over. And, I am thankful to have had her as my best friend for over 26 years. A friend that will still be with me in my heart as I go back this holiday season to Scotland, where we spent her last birthday, and back to where we last focused on nothing but friendship.