Nearing the 12th anniversary of my dearest friend’s passing, I reflect.
Patti was a true angel who walked among us. I had the privilege of knowing Patti for 23 years. Battling breast cancer for 10 years, Patti gave it her all: she was always a positive lady, even opting to participate in clinical trials.
We were next door neighbors for 6 years, and best buddies up until she passed. (She is still my best buddy, albeit in abstention.) We spent hours together, laughing, walking, and exercising in the local harbor on a daily basis, discussing how to cure the world’s problems, spending time with our families, mutual friends, and our daughters, who remain best friends.
I clearly recall her telephone call in 1995, when she informed me she had breast cancer. Being the true lady Patti always was, first she asked how I was doing. Patti let me rattle on far too long about my silly cough and runny nose. Finally she let me know she had something to share with me. I heard her say the word “cancer,” and my world froze.
Where does survivor’s guilt come in? When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2012 and began my own journey through the maze of medical procedures, surgeries, follow-up radiation, and my experiences with aromatase inhibitors and tamoxifen, I felt so ashamed of my lack of knowledge regarding breast cancer and the treatments Patti had endured. I should have asked her more questions; I should have taken on more of her emotional burdens. Who knew there are so many different types of breast cancers? I was oblivious to what her test results were saying. Patti was surrounded by her family, so I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries as a friend.
Patti was not a complainer, and probably wouldn’t have gone into great detail even if I had pushed her for more information. I only saw Patti shed tears once during the 10 years she battled breast cancer.
When I shared my “survivor’s guilt” feeling with Connie, another dear friend of ours and also a cancer survivor, Connie told me, “Just be thankful, live well; it’s the best way to honor those who weren’t given the same chance.”
The silver lining for me now is the knowledge that cancer treatments and cures have come a long way in the past 20 plus years. Lives are being saved, and with continued research, I hope to see the day when cancer will only be known through the written word, featured in books, or on the Internet.
Patti and our families participated in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Race for the Cure beginning in 2000. Each year since her passing, I honor Patti with a poster on the race course. Looking up and seeing her watching over us as we walk evokes a few tears, yet a warm smile as well.
A final word: writing this from my heart has also brought a smile to my face, as I reminisce about Patti, a true angel, then and always.