health, cancer, friendship

F*ck Cancer Anyway

Friendships through adulthood come and go. As people age and life marches forward, everyone gets wrapped up in playing the leading role in their own personal lifetime movies. Once you get married and have kids, it’s really easy to do. I think more about what I need to cook my kid for dinner, or reminding myself for the thousandth time to set the alarm on my phone so that we make it to school on time, than I do checking in with my friends. Nobody does it on purpose. I know I don’t anyway.

As I’ve aged my circle of friends has become smaller and smaller. I’ve kept the relationships that were important to me and I tossed out the rest. The people that remained in my life were those who were the most valuable. They were the kind of people who I could call weeks or months later and we would have the kind of conversations that made it seem like only a day or two had passed us by. My friend Tiffany was one of those people.

She would see something I wrote on Facebook and then my cell phone would ring on some random Wednesday. I’d be in the middle of driving myself home from a health crisis or on my way to get groceries. I’d pick up the call and it was her voice that was on the other end of the line.

                “How are you holding up?” She’d ask me.

I would pop off with a generic answer and mid- conversation Tiff would stop me.

                “No. Tell me how you’re REALLY doing.” She would say sternly.

Just like that she was my shoulder to lean on. She was my sounding board for medical drama. Most of all she was the person holding my hand from another state while I cried my eyes out on the side of the road in frustration. She sat, she listened, and she helped me lace my boots back up so I could keep moving forward. I tried to do the same for her but Tiff was amazing at lacing up her own boots.

Tiff’s personal life was a mess; People closest to her would hurt her in the worst ways. She never deserved it, and incredibly Tiff was able to forgive. Not forget. Not be a doormat. Deeply rooted, loving forgiveness. I once asked her how she was able to find it in her heart to do that after all she had been through and she told me that it hurt her more to hold onto the anger than it did to let it go. I couldn’t do it. Not the way she did but her strength was inspirational.

On a sunny day with my windows down and my music maxed out in my SUV, my phone rang. I picked up the line to hear Tiff’s voice on the other end asking me if I was able to sit down somewhere because she had something she needed to tell me. She had cancer again and my heart broke. I cried and she told me not to be sad.

                “I beat this before. I’m going to kick cancer’s ass Lish! Don’t be sad for me. I’m going to beat it and then I’m going to live my life doing all the things I love.”

20 years of friendship with this incredible woman taught me that if anybody could beat cancer for a second time… it was her. She lost her eye to cancer as a child but she kicked its ass. Despite the odds then, she spent her high school years being friends with me and several other amazing women. Tiff was fearless. Sometimes when she was struggling she would withdraw into herself to protect those around her, I knew whenever I hadn’t heard from her in a while that she was struggling. I also knew I needed to give her the space she needed to deal with it because… I’ve been there. Not with cancer but with my own health battles.

I finally got the call that I had been praying for. She finished radiation; they thought they got it all in time and all felt well in our worlds again. It was short lived. A persistent dry cough was bothering her. She assured me it was nothing but she decided to get it checked out. It was cancer for the third time. This time it was more aggressive and it was on her lung.

When she told me what was going on, I had this awful feeling twisting up my gut. I mentioned life expectancy and she told me that she refused to go there. She was in it to win it and no mindset otherwise would help her get to that goal. So we never talked about it again. We talked about throwing up (something I’m familiar with) and about trips to chemo. We talked about things she wanted to do and short term goals that filled her with joy… like going to Disney World with her family.

She meet the love of her life, a man named Ty. Tiff finally found a man worthy of being with her. He took her to doctor appointments, held her hair when she threw up, and had her overflowing with happiness. She wanted to marry him and I was grateful that he was the sunshine to her cloudy days. She deserved all the love this life had to offer her and I was thankful that he provided that.

About a week and a half before Christmas day, Tiff sent me voice recordings on Facebook. It was unusual. She had never done that before but I was so thankful to have heard from her. We spent two days sending messages back and forth for hours at a time. It started before her mom picked her up for her next chemo treatment. She asked me questions about Gastroparesis- the stomach illness that nearly killed me. She found out that because of chemo and the medication she was on, that she had it too.

                “How did you do it? How did you get through how horrible it feels and how painful it is for as long as you did?”

Nobody ever asked me that before. No one ever validated me in that way. Here she was, the woman fighting cancer despite the odds and she took the time to validate me. That’s the kind of person Tiff was. Not just for me, but for everyone else too. She was one of a kind in more ways than I can write about. Some of her life stories are only hers to tell which prevents me from going into too much detail, but believe me… Tiff was special.

On Christmas day I got a call from our mutual friend “Ashley” informing me that Tiff’s body was rapidly declining and she decided to enter hospice. I knew how angry tiff was when the doctors mentioned hospice the last time. She could no longer call anyone. She hadn’t held food down in days. The day or so prior to this, she married the love of her life in a non-legal ceremony to avoid saddling him with her medical debt. Ty will forever in my mind be known as Tiff’s husband.  My beautiful selfless friend passed away 15 minutes after all of her family members arrived to say their goodbyes on Christmas Day.

I spent the rest of the day trying to focus on my family, and slipping out of the room to cry. I cried during dinner when I couldn’t hold the flood of emotions in any longer. I cried during the movie we tried to watch together as a family. I cried on the phone with Ashley, and I cried alone in the hotel parking lot before calling my mom to cry some more. Tiff was so loved that when her family posted the go-fund me page for her end-of-life expenses… within 6 hours over fourteen thousand dollars had been raised.

I was able to forward some of her voice recordings to Ashley, and Ty. Ashley forwarded them to Tiff’s family members for me. I was so thankful I had them. I think she knew in her own way that people would need them. I deleted Tiff’s number from my cell phone. Not because I didn’t want to remember her anymore, but because I didn’t want to out-of-habit text or call her. I knew in my gut that I would. Something would come up and I’d think of her and instinctively out of muscle memory… I was going to grab my phone to share it with my soul sister. Only eventually I’d hear some random person attached to her number and it would break me.

Tiff lived to be 34 years old. People gravitated to her like planets around the sun. She spent 34 years defying the odds. She died fighting to live. Even after enrolling in hospice she was asking if she could leave once she got better. Cancer never won because Tiff never gave up. Her memory will follow me until I follow her and it will be that way for everyone who knew her. She would have been pissed at me for spending Christmas crying over her rather than finding joy in my loved ones but I just couldn’t stop. Even knowing in advance that this time might come… I still felt caught off guard. Tiff was going to win. I didn’t have faith that cancer wouldn’t take her, but I did have faith in Tiff’s strength. She won the war in my opinion and as Tiff always said… F*ck Cancer anyway.

45 thoughts on “F*ck Cancer Anyway”

  1. Heartbreaking. Did it help you to write about this? I still have the unplayed voicemail messages on my phone that I can’t bare to listen to, of one of my best friends. This comment is actually the most I’ve talked about it. His brother was my other best friend who we lost a few years prior. Sorry, don’t mean to hijack your post. Tiff sounds like a great friend and person. It’s hard to make sense of such losses, and why such great human lives are cut short.

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    1. Don’t be sorry!! I’m glad you shared that with me. It did help to write about it but I still cry almost every time I think about her and the life I know she deserved to have. I miss talking to her and I miss when she would check in with me. I think that grief never really gets better, it just becomes less raw over time. Tiff was one of a kind. We had very different political views and yet she was one of those people who is capable of being friends with absolutely anyone. She got the short end of the deal with her ex husband who treated her horribly. I’m thankful she found the love of her life but I’m heartbroken still that she passed before they were able to spend real time together. He was wonderful, he bought her apartment, took in her two kitties which she adored, moved from Arizona to Chicago to do it even though he really didn’t want to live in Chicago. He just wanted to be closer to her. They deserved a lifetime of happiness and they only got about a year or more. Gut wrenching

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      1. beatufiul and gut wrenching at the same time. I know how you feel. I get a aching in my gut when I think about my friend, almost have an anxiety attack. his bother died who he was really close to, and then his mother died. So he shot himself. there’s a good possibility one of my phone messages from him was from the night he shot himself. Had I not been selfish, not wanting to wake up and talk, I could have talked in out of it. I missed the signs. I know he had reasons to do it, but wasn’t like him – he was always the caretaker for everyone else. Probably not a good place to get this stuff out. Your friend Tiff had love for a year then? – god bless that man from AZ.

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      2. I think this is the perfect place to talk about it. I’ve had several friends commit suicide unfortunately and I’ve been in your shoes where I think maybe I could have said something that made a difference or reached out sooner. It’s hard but we’re all doing the best we can.

        Yes Tiff had true love for about a year and she deserved soooo much more but I guess there are those who never get love at all and I’m sure if she read this she would say that.

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      3. You have? had friends suicide? Thank you for understanding and going easy on me intruding on your post. i appreciate it. I needed to tell someone. I’ve lost a lot of friends (4) by death the last few years, and the rest I lost over politics. LOL. Hoping for a better next few years. LOL

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      4. I have a stomach illness that almost killed me and I ran a support group for it. I’ve had 3 friends commit suicide because of it. Two of them I was really close with. More recently a photography friend I loved committed suicide. So yes I’ve lost a lot. My husband was also a soldier and he had PTSD and we’ve had friends come pretty close before

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      5. I wrote about some of it on a post called “the zebra Farmer”. I read that post to my mom and she cried so hard. It brought back a lot of scary memories for her, my husband, and my kinda-sorta daughter Isabell (she was adopted by my grandma but I helped raise her)

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      6. LOL I DO!! I wrote about happy stuff today and posted it 😉 AND I wrote a story about our duck not long ago that was pretty cool. My husband’s Afghanistan story is hysterical as is the story about how I meet my husband (called this messy life)

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      7. You’ve had some significant (huge) losses. That’s hard if not debilitating. It’s a lot of menatl/psychic/soul trauma, whatever terms you want to use. It’s heartbreaking, which can hurt and damage as much or more than physical trauma. You’ve endured it and kept your everything together, you must have a lot of strength and inner fortitude, or faith.

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      8. I think it depends on the moment. Sometimes I’ve had to sit in the shower and just cry until I felt better and other times I’ve relied on God, my husband, and my family to help hold me up. It just depends on the moment but one thing I’ve learned… You have to keep moving forward. You can be sad but there must always be a time limit to it and then you pull it together and just do whatever it takes to keep getting up in the morning

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      9. I agree. Life is tragedy everyone. Even the best and most blessed of lives, end in tragedy. We should feel but cannot be victims or consumed by grief, that is narcissistic and shameful. Every life is a miracle and a tragedy, we keep going to do the best we can for whom we can.

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      10. Perfect. Accept for the FBI part because they are corrupt, can she do CIA instaed? Smarter the better, seriously, ridiculously, dangerously smart, is perfect.

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      11. Na I’ll just leave it be 🙂 I’m not that picky! Sorry for delayed responses. I had someone message me asking about flower bouquets and I’m standing at the end of my driveway begging my phone to send images LOL!

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      12. I don’t like to date Democrats anymore, i know it’s petty, maybe, but I’d rather not be randomly called racist or something-phobic. I like to spend my time with rational people. (sorry LaShelle readers, that was partisan and antagonistic, I own it, blame me not her. )

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      13. That works. Children are good, I have none, but can support. If he’s on again off again then he probably sucks. I really like the “smart” part. Sign me up!

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      14. Yes. I’m republican ❤️ I have a lot of democrat friends though because I grew up in Chicago but in this political climate holding onto friends who have a different political opinion gets harder and harder to do. People these days don’t like to agree to disagree ya know? They want to get heated at times and say things they wouldn’t normally say because it’s in the moment.

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      15. So weird. My friend who I lost was from Chicago too, and he hated Trump. We were too good of friends for politics to get between us, but the surface friends who are leftists, have gone by the waisteside. My mom is viciously Democrat, and it breaks my heart, but she’s my mom – can’t dishone her or not love her.

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      16. I get it! My brother is a Democrat. I love him so much and sometimes we find things to agree on which always makes my day. Other than the two posts I wrote on here about the guy who broke into my house (called the night I had to save our lives) and the one I wrote as a follow up to that (called a little thing like me- which I think you’d probably enjoy)… I keep politics off of my blog. Not because I don’t want to offend anyone but because I’d rather write stories about our lives here and not think or deal with things we cannot control.

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      17. Probzbly wise to not write about it, because I don’t think many minds will be changed the way things are. It will just put people off that you might connect with otherwise. That’s the weird thing about it, I have much more in common with most leftists I know than they, or I have with political left. My mom and I have the same values, more or less,. The propaganda is powerful and people buy into it, smart and kind people are fooled by it, that’s the reality.

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