I assumed that by the age of 50, I would have all the friends I needed. I was wrong. Although I certainly wouldn’t have asked for a cancer diagnosis, it has opened up many doors that I would have passed on by. Much of the need for new people in my life came from early retirement. After 26 years of constant interactions with students, colleagues, and parents, my life felt a little quiet.
The good thing about cancer is that EVERYONE knows it sucks. Family, friends, community members…even the ones you’ve never talked to…they all come out to support you. Honestly, it was support I never knew I needed until I got cancer. I have kept every card and email that came my way. It all made me feel loved. So, if you are on the fence about reaching out to someone, do it. It is appreciated. It has changed the way I interact with people and makes me wish I had stepped up more often when someone needed it.
These small tokens of support have led to wonderful new friendships. I live in a large neighborhood with a strong sense of community. Although we can’t know everyone, we are all connected in some way. When the word spread about my health, people came to help. I would find baskets of goodies on my porch, cards in my mailbox, offers of dinner, and prayer chains. A small group of us started a support group. We have all been unlucky enough to be hit with cancer. Sorry about the language, but it is appropriate, we call it the shitty club. Not super creative, but totally accurate. I asked if I could be the president because I have colon cancer. We get together about once a month but text each other several times a week. We share good news and well, shitty news. We complain, but mostly we laugh.
My husband and I have always been really focused on gathering experiences instead of possessions, but we have definitely ramped it up in the past two years. For example, we have tickets to the Broadway touring series in Columbus. It is not my husband’s favorite thing, but he knows I love it, and he loves me. We attend a Saturday Matinee and then go to dinner downtown. There are tons of amazing restaurants in Columbus, Ohio so we try to go to a new one each time.
Recently, we went to a place in the short north called Fireproof. https://fireproofcolumbus.com/ We had a fairly early reservation and not many people were out yet. They led us to a small two person table close to the bar. It was the kind of grouping with several two person tables sitting side by side, so you are very close to your neighbors. I have to admit, when the hostess led us there, I REALLY wanted to ask her to take us to one of the empty booths in the back. I didn’t want to sit that close to anyone. Against my instincts, I didn’t ask for a change. I am so glad that I didn’t! We ended up sitting next to several delightful couples. WE MADE NEW FRIENDS! We shared food, drinks and conversation, and plan to do it again.
So, my friends, put yourself out there. Step up. Be open to new experiences. Make new friends. Life is a party.