My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare.
How do you define a best friend? Is it the person who you call the minute something absolutely amazing or devastatingly tragic happens to you? Is it the person who you know you can trust with your most intimate secrets? Is it the person who you know is going to be on the same page as you in every and any situation? Or is it the person who you can always count on to make you laugh a night away? Ben Affleck once referred to his best friend, Matt Damon, as the first person he would call if he woke up in a hotel room with a dead hooker, so we all have our own criteria.
I know a lot of girls who would consider their mother to be their best friend, but that was never me. The relationship that I have with my mother is different. We are two women who took very different paths in life. We see the world through two different sets of eyes and, at times, it can take work for us to understand each other’s point of view. Our tastes and opinions differ when it comes to almost everything from clothes to television shows to music to habits and priorities in life. My mother may never understand how I can be 34 years old and not married and I may never understand how she started her “adult life” at such a young age. We have both been guilty of unfairly judging each other based on our differences. Like many mother/daughter relationships, my mother sometimes thrives on the “I told you so’s” and I, at times, have made it my mission to prove her wrong. It’s a complicated relationship but its one that is rooted in a desire for each other to be happy and true to ourselves.
About two months ago, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and, all of the sudden, we had a very common ground to stand on together. Eight months earlier, I sat in my bed and hit the send button on an email to my parents letting them know that I had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. They were shocked and in disbelief that, for the previous month and a half, I had been shuffling myself from one appointment to the next in secrecy because I was too scared to say the word “cancer” out loud to the people who I loved. There is no right or wrong way to handle a cancer diagnosis. Nobody knows how they would handle it until they are actually put in the situation. Everyone praised me for being so brave by handling it all on my own, but I didn’t feel like it was an act of courage. I have always been a very private and independent person and this was what felt natural to me.
Over the next few months, I learned how to depend on others for support - something that, up until that point in my life, had never come easy to me. Some would say that I’m lucky that I have a curable form of cancer that can be treated without chemo. Still, it was hard to feel lucky during daily trips to the hospital for shots and scans and sitting in waiting rooms wondering what was going to show up on those scans and when the other shoe was going to drop. Cancer is both a physical and mental battle and my battle was extremely emotional. My summer was, for the most part, a series of meltdowns and anxiety attacks and, as difficult as it was for me going through it, I know that it was harder for mother to watch me go through it.
My friends and family got me through what was, without a doubt, the most terrifying time in my life. In turn, they armed me with the tools and perspective to help my mother get through hers. My mother’s breast cancer was caught early enough and she has a very promising prognosis, but that doesn’t make it any less scary. She and I both understand the dichotomy of feeling absolutely healthy and happy on the outside but, at the same time, knowing that there is a potentially fatal disease growing inside of our bodies. We both understand that, at times, we are going to feel sorry for ourselves but we never want anyone else to feel sorry for us. We’re both going to play the cancer card every once in a while and who can blame us? She and I both know what it feels like to have every ounce of confidence that we will beat our cancers and only worry that others worry too much about us. Although, we accept that we can never worry too much about each other.
As I sit in bed writing this, my mother is in the operating room having a double mastectomy. This is just the beginning of what is sure to be the most challenging few months of her life, but I know that she’ll get through it. I’m in awe of how brave she has been over the past few months. The day that she called me to tell me that she had breast cancer, I gave her the same advice that I learned last summer - I told her that, no matter how hard things get, you’re going to wake up every morning and you’re going to breathe in and breathe out and know that you’ll do whatever it takes just to get through that day. Before you even realize it, life will get easier and you’ll be happy again.
Maybe a best friend can be defined as someone with whom you share a life challenging and changing experience that forces you both to grow as individuals and together. We may never be able to make sense of why the cancer lightening rod hit my family twice this year. There’s absolutely nothing lucky about that, other than feeling lucky that my mother and I have each other as best friends to lean on.