Other than teenage boys or nursing babies, nothing makes you more aware of your breasts than getting cancer in one of them. When that happened, it made me aware of many other things—such as learning who my friends were. And making new ones.
I need friends. For many reasons. Decisions require friendly feedback. Stories appreciate an audience. Good news demands to be shared. Bad news needs a sympathetic ear. And I have no idea what it means to suffer in silence.
But cancer was different. It left me so stunned that for the first time, I could not bear to share. I withdrew. Alone with my brand new husband, I tried to absorb the shock and called very few people after my diagnosis. One of them was my friend Shoosh, who had known me since I was 18, when her older brother first became my college boyfriend. We had become friendly after I moved to California. She lived 3 hours away when I lived in Los Angeles, and 3 hours from where I was now. It was a Sunday morning; she could hear over the phone that the bottom had dropped out of my world.
I never know the right words to console a friend who delivers such grim news—even though I’ve been there myself. What can you say in a moment like that? So I don’t remember what Shoosh said over the phone. But I do remember that 3 hours later, she was at my front door. She must have jumped into her car the instant she hung up.
I was living in a new community. My family and friends were all on the east coast or in Los Angeles. So they were far away at the moment I needed them most. Until I saw Shoosh standing on my doorstep, I had no idea how starved I was for a familiar face. For support from a trusted friend. I needed to see my own worries reflected in someone else’s eyes. I needed someone who could see in my eyes how tortured I was.
For those few hours I had with Shoosh, I felt safe. And I will never forget her mission of mercy. It’s one of those cliches we say often–but at this moment it was true. Shoosh was there when I needed her.
Sometimes we’re lucky in life to stumble across people who seem to be placed in our path–who don’t judge, who don’t ask for something, who just give. I am not one of those rare people, but Shoosh is.
So it’s not surprising that she started a non-profit called Enhancement, Inc., to promote health and wellness, mainly quality of life for breast cancer survivors. Last year Shoosh began offering “Creative Healing” retreats, designed to help survivors reduce stress, fear and anxiety through art, music, yoga and other healing techniques.
I believe there is nothing more healing than creativity—and I wish there had been something like this when I had cancer. Although it’s never too late. I’m 13 years down the road from my own diagnosis—but only 3 hours down the road from the retreat, which is where I’ll be heading this weekend.