Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends (and Family)

I can dedicate an entire blog, not just blog post, to the importance of having a support system and what mine means to me. So I'll do my best at giving everyone on my team the proper praise. I'm not one to ask for help or show that I'm struggling, and I definitely never want to talk about it. This whole experience has been a hard lesson in why the hell not?! Not just to ask for help, but to let people in. We all struggle and we all can use help at times, its ok to admit that. There's something to be said about those that put on a brave face, carry the entire burden, and stand alone...good for them because that's hard! But there's also something to be said for those who are brave enough to say, I am struggling and I need help. That's putting yourself in an incredibly vulnerable position, and I am usually not a fan of that. But this time, I had no choice, I needed to lean on those closest to me in all kinds of different ways.

First and foremost, my parents and brother. I literally would not have made it through this without them. There were many dark days, painful days, starving days, miserable days, no matter what kind of days...they were right by my side. It's not quite as scary when you roll into the doctors office with your entire family to hear what your fate will be. It's still pretty damn scary, but they were all there at every one of those big appointments and that was comforting. My surgeon and his assistant know my parents and brother personally and well! It's hard to fully articulate the unending support and love through thick and thin that I got from my family on this journey. They are amazing and I am so blessed to have them.

A lot of different people played a lot of different roles in showing and giving me support. This whole experience was one long roller coaster ride filled with ups and downs, twists and turns. Depending on the day or the hour, I needed different people in different ways. I am lucky enough to have amazing people in my life who wore several different hats in trying to make me feel better. There's the friend who's a good distraction from everything and helps you forget. The one who you're totally comfortable around and the jokes and conversation are normal and unchanged given the circumstances. There's the ones you can be totally sad with who will coddle you. Some friends who can put you in check and not let your mind wander too far. Then there's the friend to go deep with and have those scary, important, deep life questions and talks with. Another important role, in my opinion, is the therapist. Someone completely unbiased and unattached to your life, who is solely there to listen. I was very resistant to hop on board the therapy train, but I am huge supporter for it now!! Then there's the groups or people who have gone through something similar. It was very helpful for me to get in contact with someone who went through exactly what I have. They have all kinds of insight and understanding to your journey, it helps with the whole 'feeling totally alone' thing. You can be complete strangers, but in this one way, you share something so unique that only they can understand, which creates and instant closeness. Then there's those you come to realize who also share a common understanding...those who have been through a lot, who know struggle, suffering, and pain. Whatever caused that can be completely different from what you've gone through, but you'll come to find out those emotions and the work that goes into them are very similar!

It's cliche, but it's totally true, friends really are the family we choose for ourselves. We might even like our friends more than our family at times! My closest friends, my other family, all majorly stepped up for me in different ways throughout this journey. My cousin Nicole, who isn't just family, but someone I consider a close friend. She was there from the get go, like, literally always there!! She volunteered/was assigned as the person to come and stay with me in the early stages of it all. To keep an eye on me, to make sure I didn't go off the deep end, to simply just be there with me in whatever way I needed. The job was given to her because she's probably the only person I can stand to constantly be with during a time like that. We have a similar sense of humor and understanding about things. She knows when to be quiet and watch TV in silence, she knows when to crack jokes or throw in a sarcastic comment, and she knows when to get real. She was there during the ugly, miserable, early months of recovery while I was at home. There were some pretty gnarly days in the beginning and she was there, with the entire series of Laguna Beach in hand, to ride it out! My friend Kevin, who was a major support for me when those dark days hit. He was there to help me talk it all out and figure it all out. He was like my other therapist, only I didn't have to pay him. He literally gave me his house to live in, practically rent free, so I didn't have to move back to my hometown, San Pedro, and officially have life as I know it be over. It was incredibly generous of him, just to make a totally miserable time a little more bearable for me. Then there is one of my oldest and closest friends, Christine. Who was whatever I needed her to be from the beginning, middle, and current. She knows me better than anyone, (which I sometimes hate), but there's a comfort in that. She would be a distraction if I needed it, a laugh if I needed it, a couch and ear to listen if i needed it, or a reality check if I needed it. Whatever it was, she was.

There were countless others of course. My best friend Erica and her entire family were so present and generous in any way they could. Their house was literally my only outing other than the doctors office for those first few months. My roommate, Melissa, who I lived with after it was all over and my breakdown began. Poor Melissa, I was a mess and she was amazing. So many people, so many things. I could go on and on (I already kind of am). I kept every single card I received during that time, I have them in a little keepsake box and I still read them from time to time. It truly is amazing the amount of love and support I got from so many people.

This is just how it worked out for me, you don't need to have all of these people and all of these different types, I am just lucky to. But it is important to have just one. One person to lean on, confide in, laugh with, cry with...just one. You can go it alone, but I can tell you right now, you won't get very far. Let people in, lean on them, it will make the journey so much easier if you let it.

My good friend, Diana made this little booklet for me and these are a few pages out of it. It always makes me smile and reminds me of how much I am loved (Arnold was the name of my tumor).

Remember...Be thankful. Everyday.