#SoThisOneTime when besties became cancer buddies

So this one time, a girl from Washington moved to my high-school. She wore really ugly tennis shoes with jeans and a baggy grey West Virginia sweatshirt.  She was a little bit shy, and a little bit not. But for some reason, I was drawn to her.

‘You don’t need to know how to play soccer. I’ll teach you. You don’t need to know how to cheer. I’ll teach you. You DO need to ditch that sweatshirt though.’ And just like that. I found my new best friend.

‘Sara from Washington,’ we called her.

We’d sit next to each other on long bus rides to Italy to cheer and play soccer…sharing headphones and dancing around in our seats to Yellowcard on repeat for 13 hours straight.

We’d come home from those long haul trips and sleep. Sleep like only a teenager can with the gift of Deutsche rolladens. One time we slept for 20 hours. I kid you not.

We’d watch Napoleon Dynamite and throw mattresses out the window of the second story just for giggles [surely there was a practical reason in there too? I struggle to remember the ‘why’…but those resulting deep belly laughs I can still feel like it was yesterday].  We’d star gaze on the trampoline, talking about boys, and have sleepovers on school nights… Always in sync.

Eventually, Sara from Washington went back to Washington. And I to Florida. We straddled the country for years. But no matter how far we drifted, I was still…always…drawn to her.

We haven’t really been in the same chapter of life, or the same pocket of the world for more than a decade. I mean, she got married and has two beautiful baby girls and is in the Air Force and has her Masters Degree and is just super woman. And I try to work and workout and travel sometimes. So yeah…not always in perfect sync, but deeply connected, nonetheless.

So, imagine for a moment…what it felt like when Sara from Washington calls me muttering those same sick words that I’d uttered to her 10 years prior…The exact same diagnosis. Hodgkins Lymphoma. The exact same ABVD poison regimen. The exact same ‘what in the actual f*#k.’

48 hours after she was diagnosed I stepped off a plane in South Bend to spend the weekend with her. Not because I could heal her. Not because I could make her understand that it would be okay. Not because it had even sunk in yet. But because, as always, I was drawn to her.

And devastatingly, reluctantly…I went into my old hyper-drive… ‘You don’t need to know how to do chemo. I’ll teach you. You don’t need to know how to laugh at yourself when you’re bald. I’ll teach you. You DO need to lean on your people though.’

And tonight, I’m feeling that same tug on my heart. Because tomorrow, I know exactly how she’ll feel. After six months of hell, Sara will feel the very words I wrote 10 years ago:

“It’s bigger than graduation, and turning 21, and winning the lottery, and finishing a marathon that you’ve been sprinting for over 6 months, and being born again…”

Tomorrow, at the age of 30, Sara is born again…into a world, post-cancer, that she’ll see through a slightly different lens. A lens that I prayed she’d never know, but one I’m certain that we’ll always, always feel in sync through.

Happy graduation day, Sara from Washington.

Welcome to the world where bad hair days are better than no hair-days, belly laughs feel twice as good and we know that ugly, baggy grey West Virginia sweatshirts literally.don’t.matter.one.bit.

Happy, happy day, best friend. My survivor sista.

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Word vomit from a Spanish villa

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a million miles away from real life and the ‘talkin over the white picket fence’ thing. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve kind of spilled my guts on this little blog or because everyone knows I’ve had my heart completely shattered and feel empathy deeper than I know what to do with. I don’t know what it is…and it doesn’t really matter….but people have shared with me in this last year, like never before. People from all nooks of the world, all with a different story, have poured their hearts out to me. All looking for encouragement, or understanding or at the VERY least, acknowledgement of their reality. And no, I’m not going to spill those stories…But there ARE some things sitting hard on my heart from this pretty little Spanish villa today, and so without an ounce of expertise on any of this, I’m just gonna word vomit for a few:

NO, you do NOT have to work at a job that you hate. You don’t even have to stay at a job that you ‘tolerate.’ WHY on earth should you? Life is short. Love how you spend your 9-5.

NO, you do NOT have to work more than a 9-5. Get this. You do not even have to work any hours at all. Life is short. Honor your personal time. Spend it watching sunsets and doing yoga and cheering on the Hawks and hiking and drinking wine. Don’t look back in 50 years or in 5 days and think “gosh, all I did was work.” Always, always respect play time.

NO, you do NOT have to stay in a relationship that doesn’t overflow your love cup. Being in love shouldn’t be hard work. Effort? Sure. Compromise? You bet. But why would God, who IS love, create relationship, if it wasn’t intended to look like, feel like, sound like easy, flowin, God-like love? Life is short. Love shouldn’t be THAT hard. And if it is, then maybe you’re not following the best advice I ever got: ‘don’t love the potential of a man….love the man himself.’

NO, you do NOT need to be rich to travel. I know everyone wonders how I’m financing this trip. Only some of you ask, but I know you all secretly wonder 🙂 And so I’ll write a post all about that, but for now, just know, that if you really want to travel, then you can just do it. Life is short. The world is beautiful. Go see it. You will make time and money for things that you truly want to make time and money for.

NO, your life is not over if you wreck your car or get a divorce or lose your job or get your phone stolen in Cambodia [[or church]]. It doesn’t have to be anyway. And nope, I haven’t always felt this way…I thought getting cancer was IT [[not cause I was afraid of dying, I just thought life.was.over. as a baldie 18 year old]]. Then I thought my family falling apart was IT [[it’s different now, yes, but I do indeed still have a family]]. Then I thought yup, that heartbreak was IT [[but I suppose had said heartbreak not have happened, I wouldn’t be going paragliding in southern Spain tomorrow]].

And NO, yall, none of this is as hard as you’re probably convincing yourself that it is. I’m no expert, but I am sure as hell walking, living proof of all of these things.

Just flippin believe in yourself and trust God and lean on your people and jump. Life is short. Jumping is usually worth it.

Cause sometimes when you jump, you find a view like this: