Words from my favorite female climbing partner Mindy…
“Kim got cancer. And lung cancer, which was even more of a shock. Where did that come from? Those first weeks and months were rather surreal—hearing updates, bad news, bits of hope, watching as she lost hair, weight, energy, and dinner. It was amazing to see a group of friends rally in a time of need, plan work parties, dinners, and a fundraiser. But many times I felt like I was one too many wanting to make sure I could support my friend. My concern was not to overwhelm her and add more to her plate of worries and pills. I wanted to hear but was afraid to ask. I might not like the answer. As much as I wanted to be around and support Kim, I found myself deferring to others who had better ideas.
I have been friends with Spencer for over 15 years and met Kim shortly after they began dating. I returned to Portland and climbing by bouldering (and having bravery beers) with Kim, jumping on snake-free rocks, not petting vicious ponies, and hiccuping on bike rides through SE and SW Portland. We became immediate close friends. When the cancer news hit, I was a bit dazed and in disbelief. What could I do to help? Will it go away? Will I lose my friend?
I was concerned that she would feel like I was distancing myself from her, or that because we couldn’t go running or climbing together that I had no time for this friend. That was so not the case! Our relationship is more than bouldering, beers and happy hours. I look forward to us bushwhacking through crowds to find the perfect $40 painting amongst the constantly moving 3,000 other pieces, or wandering through recycled art to find welded gems of lawn sculpture. I find happy times when we can just sit over lunch, talk about anything, and share random stories (I’ve been really working on sharing more.)
How did I personally deal with hearing about my friend? It was sad to hear about what she was going through, the news that the cancer metastasized into something worse. I spent those evenings trying to be strong but later crying with another friend about what my friend Kim was going through – that was how I could talk about the sadness I felt. Kim had enough sadness and I didn’t want her to hear anymore from me – that and I was barely hanging on and afraid I was to fall prey to every sad emotion there was inside me.
But now, hearing her discuss lung cancer awareness and opportunities to educate others is inspiring. Her energy rubs off on everyone around her. She talks about how the nurses, her doctors, people who work at the foundations seem to really like her, and I think duh Kim, you’re one of the most likeable and strongest people I know (who can bake a perfect blondie). And her strength and confidence set her apart. She seems to live by her own expectations and not by how people think a lung cancer patient should live. I am not surprised by the opportunities that present themselves to her because she has the ability to meet the so-called colliding cancer train head on and make it switch tracks for awhile so she can dictate her life a little longer. I am proud to be her friend but sad about what she is dealing with and the path it may take.
I will fight for lung cancer awareness because it can creep up and smack into the unsuspecting, non-smoking, healthy lifestyle living, physically fit female who might be me or another close friend.
Cancer just sucks.