by Marilyn Rodgers

Marilyn wrote this in reply to Haley, who was at a loss knowing what to do for her own friend who had been diagnosed with GIST…   Marilyn’s photo is below (with John and Nick the cat).

Dear Haley,

The fact that you are posting messages to this list and the fact that you are asking the question – what can you do for your friend – means that you are already doing more than most.   Your friend sounds like she is surrounded by dear and caring people.  Those who plan and deliver meals are to be cherished.  Those who take her children for an occasional outing are saints.  I am fortunate.   My children are grown as are the children of my friends.  So my friends have the luxury of time.  But not all friendships are the same.  Oh how I learned that, following two surgeries.

One thing I have learned – never be afraid to do something even if you think it might not be what your friend wants.  My friends have read to me, massaged my feet or paid for a massage in my home, sent me books and snuggly things to wear, sat quietly with me, brought and watched movies with me, left treasures at my door ( single blossoms or seeds or a bottle of wine), pulled weeds from my garden on the hottest days of summer, searched the internet when I was flat and disinterested in my own cancer, BUT very appreciated – accompanied me to doctor’s appointments only to act as scribe and write down what was said. 

The thing I think I most cherish from my friend with ovarian cancer (and she from me) is the willingness to listen.  After my stomach/GIST surgery, I did not always want to go out though my friend urged me.  I did not always want to talk though she urged me.  I needed time alone to think.

But other times when I was really depressed, it helped me so much to have a friend who would listen and not judge or try to happy me up.  My friend told me recently that I called her every day for many weeks after she had surgery for her cancer.  I do not remember that.  But now that I have had my own cancer battle, I am touched that she calls ME every day.  Some days I do not answer.  I need a LOT of time to be alone.  That is just my style.  But hearing her voice on the answering machine lifts my spirits.  I have faced two surgeries while her friend.  The first, while not cancer, was horrible.  The biopsy was painful.  The radiologist who did the biopsy remembers it years later because it caused me such pain.  That time it was a ganglioneuroma. The surgery and recovery were extremely painful.  In fact, I was in such pain, I wanted to die.  My friend listened to all my whining and moaning.  But she never gave up on me.

So again, do what you feel is right.  If asked what we need, most of us will say, "nothing" or "I am doing fine."   The fact is, I was not fine after each surgery.  I was afraid.  I was in pain.  Each person is
different.  Best friends hopefully know what is needed and wanted.   But not always.  When one has cancer or a really bad battle, the normal is no longer normal.  I have been so down that I wanted to die.  But here I am following surgery for a painful benign surgery and following a "piece of cake" malignant stomach tumor surgery, alive and wanting to live and wanting to share my wonderful friendship with my wonderful friend.