Friday, May 6, 2011


I think I will look back on this period of my life as The Time People Felt Bad For Me Because of How Badly I Felt For Other People. And I think that my lack of writing very much has to do with the fact that a lot of the stuff I have been feeling bad about is not really mine to write about, but I also think I've been playing editor with this quirky online history of me. You know, if I don't write about it, it didn't happen!

And in 2278, when my online works are being studied by college students in space, they will write term papers hypothesizing the lack of content in late 2010 and early 2011 on this blog. Most of them will attribute this to there being a constant stream of the Real Housewives of Anywhere on TV. And they would only be partially wrong. (I'm two tablespoons deeper than that.)

So, I am going to tell you something sad that I have been feeling bad about.

I got a text from my friend Alyssa last week, telling me she had some heavy news and would rather tell me on the phone than by text or email. My stomach dropped a little. In the 45 seconds it took between that text and us talking on the phone, I considered a couple of possibilities. Maybe she lost her job? Maybe her dad is sick?

I never in a million years would have predicted that my healthy, active, globe-trotting, smart and sassy friend would tell me that she has breast cancer. She's thirty-five.

And then I said something supremely stupid: "Are you kidding me?" What, because people are always pranking each other with cancer scares? Duh. I immediately wanted to rewind and say something more appropriate, like, "Oh shit." (Which is a special word I save for such occasions.)

And then, in the course of our 30-minute conversation, she explained in calm collectedness how all of this began (with a lump found by her doctor), what she knew about her prognosis, what her plans were regarding treatment, how she'd spent the days between the biopsy and results reading and not-sleeping and gearing herself up for the monumental fight she knew-but-didn't-know was coming. As if to balance out her calm collectedness, I spent the half-hour with tears streaming down my face, choking on the news.

I invited her to come and stay with us for the weekend, and in the only act of emotionally-impaired decision-making I've witnessed thus far, she agreed to come.

I tried to pull my crap together before she arrived and did okay. We had a really nice weekend, one I'll remember forever. I'll especially remember how I've never seen anybody cope with bad news with such a level head and sense of humor. Even if she falls apart later on and becomes a slobbering, whining fool, she will always have five trillion bonus points for the grace and composure she is exhibiting in the moment. (And I'm keeping score, Cancer!) In fact, on that subject, our household psychologist Ryan made a point to tell her that she's been amazing to be around, but that we still want to be around when she's not so amazing. Amen to that.

We sent her home on the train and into the arms of appointments, doctors, consultations, and other scary realities waiting for her this week. In an act of courageous proactivity, she had her hair cut short (anticipating the chemo) and ended up with the sauciest hairdo I've seen in some time. Best cancer makeover ever. Of course, she sent her long, dark hair to Locks of Love. (Is she secretly trying to become the Oprah finale, I wonder? Will the tear-jerking amazing-ness never end?)


Alyssa said something interesting to me while she was here. As she has shared her news with other people, the burden of it felt lighter, she said. I've always known that in theory, but it was amazing to see it happen with my own eyes. The sharing of burdens really does make them possible to carry.

Guess who needs to learn that lesson? Yup, that's me looking sheepish.

So, I'm writing this here. I'm telling you that I'm feeling bad. Sad, but hopeful. Sad for my friend and for many of my loved ones fighting scary fights and unknown outcomes. But, yes, hopeful. Because I can't help it. People are amazing. I should know, I'm surrounded by them. And that includes you.

(You could and should keep up with Alyssa's story. She's making a triumphant return to blogging.)


Leslie said...

Oh, Tiff, I love you!

And, oh, Alyssa, I only know you via Tiff, but my heart goes out to you, and I hope a full and speedy recovery for you!

Bri @ intrepidinsight said...

Way to go, Alyssa! There's nothing more beautiful than looking uncertainty in the face with grace (maybe uncertainty will choke on it?).

And way to go, Tiffany. Self-revelations are the best kind.

Miss M said...

Wow, she is one year younger than me. I remember her at the WBWG before she moved to the east coast. She's got enough spunk to frighten the cancer right out of her. We'll be praying for her and you.

Kelly S. said...

Whoa. Things just got a little too serious. I just finished her blog posts about it all and all I can think is she IS amazing. She looks great with her short hair too.

Christy said...

Wow thanks for sharing this. I know what that feels like to go through something really hard with a friend. She is lucky to have you. Her burden really is lighter because you are there, helping her carry the load. I'm so glad she will be sharing her journey in a blog. I'll be following.

Kim said...

Damn that cancer! All the best to your friend in her upcoming battle. I'm sure she's happy to have you in her corner. Prayers & hugs!

Becky said...

Thanks for sharing her story with us. I will be reading her blog and praying for her. You are an awesome friend- she is so lucky to have you so close by.

Soul-Fusion said...

If I were selected for Oprah's finale I might have to point out that cancer was NOT on my vision board so I would most likely be politely escorted off stage.

Thank you for a beautiful post. Thank you for being an amazing friend. Thank you making all the decisions for me last weekend. Thank you for always inspiring me to write. Thank you for all of the things you will do for me in the coming months - I know there will be many.

Suzie said...

I've come to know Alyssa through her blogging her divorce story. My heart goes out to her right now!
I am a praying girl and want to add my prayers! And Oprah would be lucky to have her on.

Brittany said...

My very best friend in the whole world... my maid of honor and soul sista... was diagnosed with the B.C. when she was 37. She's now been cancer-freakin-free for six full years! Good luck to her, and good luck to you... the strength will be there when you need it, and the tears and laughter will be there too. We fought her cancer with laughter, every single day.

littlegypsy. said...

i will be thinking of alyssa and wishing her the very best outcome!!!

kami @ said...

I feel optimistic for Alyssa. She's just too dang cute with that new haircut and love for life.

This will just be part of her story.

Jesse C said...

We are so sorry to hear about Alyssa. Glad to hear that she is doing so well with it all. Thoughts and prayers.

Angie said...

Wow, that is a bittersweet post. I've often thought about Alyssa since reading her divorce story, and now this. I'm sure that the love you have for her is a great strength to her.

Anonymous said...

Tell Alyssa I love her hair and I have been thinking of her and praying all goes well for her.

Mia said...

My heart goes out to Alyssa. She seems so strong and brave. I know that she is blessed with great friends who will be there for her when that strength and bravery is stretched thin.

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