If anyone knows Steph they know what an amazing human being she is. I don't think she has a mean bone in her body. I met Steph and Kollin about 6 years ago. In that time we have lived together (they rented out our basement while trying to find a home), been our next door neighbors, traveled near and far together from Costa Rica to Italy and so many places in between, we've laughed, cried, had what we thought then was a near death experience, she has seen me on my highest highs and lowest lows. She is one of those women that make you want to be better. I cherish our friendship more then she will ever know.
She recently wrote about me on her blog and she was able to put into words what I try to express in writing but just can't quite get the words right. I thought it might be interesting for others to read her perspective on this whole cancer thing. I decided to just copy her post down so you can read it here or you can go to her blog here and read it.
When you hear that someone has cancer, it’s hard not to think “Yeah, everyone has cancer these days. My neighbor and my coworker and my aunt and my brother and my sister's dog all had cancer once.” Up until now, I’ve never had someone close to me have cancer. My grandma had breast cancer, but she was in her 80’s, so she was already pretty sick and immobile. All I remember from that experience was that every time I saw her she’d say “do you want to see where my boob used to be?” and then pull down her shirt and show me before I could say “no that’s ok grandma, thanks anyway.”
One of my best friends has cancer. I hate writing those words “my friend has cancer”, not because it’s hard to write, but because something so personal and painful can’t possibly be summed up in a sentence so small and generic. It's impossible to accurately portray those emotions. In the words of Shakespeare: “I cannot heave my heart into my mouth.”
I’m not a family member of Nicole’s, and I’ve only known her for about 6 years which is pretty short compared to everyone else, so I’m really not qualified to write about this at all. But friends are the family you choose, and writing is my outlet, so when one of my chosen family members has cancer, I can’t help but write about it.
The complexity of emotions that come with cancer (or I’m sure any debilitating illness) are so deep that it’s hard to even try to put it into words. When I used to hear about other people who had cancer, my heart would genuinely ache for them, but I’m just realizing now that I had no idea the extent of what they were going through. It’s not just the life threatening physical illness that’s difficult (as if that weren’t enough), it’s the emotional and mental stress, suffering and sadness that come with it. In some ways I would imagine the emotional and mental pain would be more trying than the physical pain. Fear, guilt, anger, confusion, mourning, these are just a few of the things I know Nicole has already been going through. And on top of that, knowing that so many other people are sad and hurting for you would somehow make you feel worse in and of itself. The debilitating illness you now have is not only consuming your own entire life, but the lives of everyone around you. Even if you know that those people love you and want to be there for you, it has to be hard to accept, especially for someone as aware of those around her as Nicole.
Through this whole thing so far, Nicole has been so composed, so put together, and so positive. It wasn’t until the last couple of days that it was almost like the weight of everything was crashing down on her. She told me through tears how she saw herself naked in the mirror for the first time without her bandages, and that she wasn’t prepared for how she’d feel. She told me through tears how guilty she feels for even being sad at all, because everyone has done so much for her and been so generous. She told me through tears how she can’t help but think about how perfect her life was before any of this happened, but at the same time how she feels so bad for even thinking that, because things could be a lot worse. And then there’s her kids. Don’t even get me started on Penny and Jude. If anyone knows Nicole, they know she absolutely loves being a mom. And they know that both of her kids are extremely adorable and pretty easy. She’ll be the first to tell you she has amazing kids. When my twins were born early at 1.7 and 3.6 pounds, the hardest part was wanting to hold them and care for them, but only being able to ache for them while I stared at them through the incubators. Even though I was grateful they were being taken care of, and that they were doing so well, leaving them every day at the hospital was nothing short of heart wrenching. Hearing Nicole talk about Penny and Jude right now reminds me of exactly how I felt at that time in my life. Here she is with two beautiful kids that she couldn’t love more, but she can’t hold them, or take care of them or make memories with them. Every day she leaves them with a family member or friend because she’s literally not physically able to be with them right now. She’s knows they are having a great time with their cousins and friends and family, and she’s so grateful for all the help people are offering up so freely, but that doesn’t change how painful it is to think about how much she doesn’t even want to be in this situation, and to wish she could be the one making those memories with them.
Nicole and Derrik definitely know how to count their blessings. She’ll be the first to tell you there are worse things happening in the world right now than her breast cancer. She has so much gratitude, but even still, the weight of this experience is real, and it’s heavy. This experience has reminded me that life can be painful sometimes. Really, really painful. And the worst part is knowing that a lot of people have to suffer through their trials alone. When we hear a simple sentence like “my friend has cancer” or “I have depression” or “my loved one passed away” or “I’m getting a divorce” or any other trial that someone might be going through, we can't forget the amount of emotion and pain behind those words. All we have is each other. Anytime you feel like someone might need your help, or words of encouragement and love, and I can guarantee you they do.
The amount of love and support Nicole and Derrik have been shown by people from all over the world is overwhelming. It's not even me that's going through it, and I still get emotional when I think about it. It makes me wish I would have been more open to sharing my feelings and experiences while my girls were in the NICU. The love that even complete strangers are willing to give to those who are going through a difficult trial is humbling, and reminds me that the world is a beautiful place.
Nicole, I love you. We all love you. I know that you hate that we are all making such a fuss over you, and that you think you aren’t worth it, but you are.
You’ve got this!!
Here is Nicole's GoFundMe if you want to donate.
I told you Steph was an incredible writer. I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as I did.