We all have friends. Having friends is one of the most important parts of being alive and being human. There is something special about the connection of shared experiences, memories and activities. Friends are often categorized by how we met them- work-friends, high school or college friends, church-friends, etc. As we continue to grow and experience new things, our friend groups evolve. We lose touch with some friends, while we deepen our relationships with others. Occasionally, we are fortunate enough to add an entire new category of friend.
In the spring of 2018, I added a new circle to my Venn diagram of friends- Cancer Friends. My wife Emily and I walked into a crowded hotel ballroom in Washington DC at LUNGevity’s Hope Conference. While we knew no one, we all had the shared connection of Lung Cancer. This shared connected caused us to bond with people faster and deeper than we had never experienced.
As survivors spoke about their successes and challenges in fighting the disease, our eyes were opened. We learned that a progression was not the end. Breaking through a drug didn’t mean you were about to die. We learned there is a lot of life to be lived even after a diagnosis or spread. We also learned this is and will continue to be hard but with a tremendous amount of joy interspersed.
While I’ve never served in the military, I’ve spoken to many who have gone to war. The shared experience of war unifies and bonds soldiers unlike any other experience. I believe the shared experience of battling cancer is a little like what these soldiers must feel. Knowing someone else is experiencing the same or similar adversity that you are going through allows you to connect even if everything else about you is very different. Both soldiers and cancer survivors also share the real risk that some won’t make it. That is a tremendous force that pulls you together.
We are so thankful for our Cancer Friends and their families. We sincerely love these people. We text and talk with them. We pray for them and worry about them. When they have an upcoming scan, we all lose sleep. We celebrate and mourn together, as we all experience the highs and lows of this disease. It is an exclusive club. I never thought I’d be a member. #ifyouhavelungsyoucangetlungcancer.
After two short days at the conference, we felt like we had known some of these folks for years. It felt like the end of the best summer camp ever! We laughed, cried, listened and shared. We connected though the common denominator of lung cancer.
Adversity creates memories. Shared adversity creates bonds that are amazingly strong. As a soldier in the battle against this disease, I’m proud to be going to war with my amazing cancer friends.