A while back I wrote a blog for a dear friend of mine, who was battling cancer. For those of you who may not recall, or didn’t read it, my friend is the reason I write. She is the reason I share my story so openly through my writing and on my podcast. We have never met. We’ve only chatted on the phone, text, and Twitter, which is where we met five or six years ago.
I had just been diagnosed with a handful of illnesses including Borderline Personality Disorder and had just started up on Twitter, discovering an enormous mental health community. She was one of the first people I followed. Something about her screamed “safe person” which doesn’t happen for me often. Many people with BPD were traumatized or neglected in childhood, so when we started to chat and no red flags were rising, I started to slowly let her in. We shared our stories, our journeys, and our lives with each other. The paths that led us here were different, but the emotions we felt from our trauma were essentially the same.
Fast forward a few years, and she had become a dear friend, and like a second mom. I lost my mom when I was 19, but felt my friend held the qualities that my mom would have had, should she have lived. Without her encouragement and support, I would not be a multi-published blogger and have written a chapter in a best-selling anthology book this year. I would never have had the nerve to start a podcast.
She stuck with me during my often long, depressive episodes, reassuring me that things will work out eventually. She has my back without question. I’m not sure I believe in unconditional love between humans, but if there is such a thing, she would be the closest thing I have ever had to it. Shit, if I’m being brutally honest, she is a huge reason I continue to not succumb to the illnesses. You see, my friend was fighting for her life for the past few years. If she was brave and strong enough to fight the evil that is cancer, then I must somehow summon the strength to continue fighting the darkness that calls me so often. I have to stay strong and alive.
I fucking hate cancer.
It has taken so many lives; hundreds of millions of people around the world. It is insidious, non-discriminatory, and vile. It tears people away from their loved ones, far before it’s time to go. It left a permanent hole in my heart and soul when it took away my mom. Time may ease the pain a bit, but nothing will fill the void that feels as vast as the universe itself.
My friend was a true fighter. She tried every possible chemotherapy treatment, endured the pain of radiation, and even had multiple stem cell transplants. Her cancer went into remission for a while, but like a snake in the grass, it reared its ugly head, spread out, and attacked. Every effort was given by the doctors, and despite her loving sense of stubbornness, and great sense of faith, her cancer was now terminal.
It killed me inside knowing how utterly helpless I was. I was unable to fix it or take the pain away. As most of you know, I have spent most days in my life with suicidal thoughts, so in a millisecond, I would trade places with her. She had a loving family and a good life. Sadly, there is no swap button, or I would have hit it when she first got sick. We never know when someone’s time is up and there is no way to prepare for the pain that is coming. I have lost a few people since my mom, but no one close enough to put another hole in my heart; another void in my soul. I simply was not ready to let go.
As I write this blog, I can’t keep the tears from streaming down my face. As soon as I think about it, I feel the tightness in my chest, the quivering in my voice, and the burning sensation behind my eyes. I wrote this because I couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye. I didn’t know how to. I knew how to provide her the best support I could. I knew how to love her, how to listen and validate, but letting go was surreal to me.
I think it is fair to say most people don’t like to say goodbye in many different situations, not just death. People with BPD often have attachment issues, so letting go feels like someone tearing a layer of my skin off, inch by inch, causing indescribable pain. I stopped and started this blog for hours. None of the words seem right. Maybe there are no right words. I wrote the brief letter below in an attempt to express my emotions. I hope she knew the importance and influence she had in my life. This, by far, was the hardest thing I have ever had to write. I hope she hears me now.
My dear friend,
You were my confidante and my source of strength. You were my fountain of positivity, my inspiration, and so much more. I know time was not in our favor and I hope you knew how much I loved you. You became one of my dearest friends and were the closest thing I had to a mother in over 30 years. You gave me unconditional support, encouragement and most importantly, unconditional love. Not for a single moment did I feel unloved by you.
You challenged my thoughts and made me realize that unconditional love between people is possible. It may have been the only time I experience that, and I thank you for filling a small part of the void in my life. I want you to know how much your encouragement and belief in me meant. You were a huge influence in helping me discover the paths I am on now. My blogs, the chapter for the book, my podcast, all because you never doubted my abilities. I was consistently reminded that I would succeed. You were always proud of me for achieving these things, despite my fear of failure. Your strength in fighting that horrible illness kept me alive more times than I could count. After all, if you could stay strong enough to fight cancer, I had to stay strong enough to fight for my life too.
We faced a path that physically separated us but nothing will ever be able to divide the bond that we had. You are a part of my heart, and I will carry that with me always. I miss you so very much. I miss our chats and texts. I miss your words of support and encouragement. I miss hearing you say I love you, but I won’t ever forget that you did. Not even death can stop that. I hope you know I would have traded places with you in a millisecond. If I could have been sitting beside you through your journey I would have, and I wouldn’t have left your side. Sadly, a few thousand kilometers made that not possible. You cross my mind all the time, bringing both a smile and a few tears. I thank you for being in my life and allowing me the privilege of being in yours. Thank you for your love, your support, and your unwavering belief in me.
I love you and I always will. You will never be forgotten. We’ll see each other again one day soon. May you find your peace my friend.
Until we meet again.