A Friend’s Perspective of a Childhood Cancer Diagnosis
Friends are those great people you surround yourself with, the ones who you turn to when your spirits need to be lifted, the ones who fill your life with smiles and laughs. They’re the people that are there for you through thick and thin and offer you comfort, safety and support. The laugh when you laugh, cry when you cry, and hurt when you are hurting!
My sister Jill is very fortunate to have great friends that have supported her through everything in her life thus far. I asked three of Jill’s close friends who have been in Jill’s life through the years and were by her side through her cancer journey, to share their perspectives on what it was like when Jill was diagnosed with cancer.
Here are their stories:
JILL’S FRIEND MADDIE (Jill’s Best Friend since the very first day of Kindergarten)
“I remember one night my mom getting a call from Donna (Jill’s Mom) telling her that Jill was in the ambulance. I knew that she hadn’t been feeling well and that she was at home from school, but I just thought she just had the flu. Shortly afterwards I found out that my best friend would be fighting ovarian cancer. Jill and I were only age 11, so I thought cancer was all the same. I had no idea that there were different kinds and levels, but Jill at such a young age learned quickly about cancer and informed me on all answers to my “stupid” questions. Before the treatments Jill and I still did all the same activities together, such as playing in each other’s ponds, playing on the same hockey team, skiing, swimming, tubing and much more. When Jill was going through chemo and was sick we couldn’t do everything we did before, but no matter what it was we did, it was always fun. When I would see Jill sick, it was always hard for me to see her like that because I knew how energetic and athletic she was, but she was always strong and would meet me with a smile whenever I went to see her.
One of the hardest things about having your best friend go through cancer is seeing them sick and knowing that they’re missing out on activities that they love. There was never a question of Jill not getting better! She is the strongest person I know! Whether it was winning a race or fighting cancer, Jill always won! I should know, we always competed against each other. Jill and I were on the same hockey team and I knew how much she missed playing, so our hockey team put together a video for Jill that she could watch so she knew how much everyone missed her. At school it was very hard waiting outside and seeing Jill’s bus pull up and her not get off. Everyone missed her and was always asking me how she was doing. All the kids Jill’s age from school also put together a video with friends so Jill could watch it, have a few laughs and know we were all thinking about her. For those times when I wasn’t able to visit Jill because her counts were too low, we would talk on MSN or we would phone each other and talk for as long as we could.
Having gone through this chapter of Jill’s life with her, brought us closer and taught me so much about life. I will always look up to Jill and hope someday I can be as strong as her. She will always be my best friend with the curly hair! I am so happy that we will be in the same city next year for college and university.”
JILL’S FRIEND SAVANNA (Jill’s Best Friend and Neighbour)
“I remember that day like it was yesterday; the day I found out that my best friend, neighbor and practically sister was diagnosed with cancer. This was an extremely scary thought even for a twelve-year-old who wasn’t even sure the extent of cancer. Some of the hardest parts was having to see my best friend not be able to do some of the things she used to do, however it didn’t stop her from jumping off snow banks with me in the winter and swimming in the creek in the summer. The hardest part was seeing her have to go through all of the pain and knowing that I could do nothing to stop it or prevent it from happening. No one could!
Jill is an amazing friend that I’m so lucky to get to grow up with and it amazes me everyday to see how much she has overcome at such a young age. Love you lots Jill; it’s inspiring to see how strong you are.”
JILL’S FRIEND JAMIE (Jill’s Neighbour and lifelong Friend)
“When you think of some friends they seem more like family. When I think of the Barr’s there is no doubt in my mind that’s how I feel. I have been so lucky to grow up with Kathleen, Jill and Jenna and they are definitely more like sisters to me than just friends.
When I was told the news concerning Jill, I really didn’t know how to act as I felt like I could do nothing to help and seeing her this way was very tough. At the time I was very uneducated as at that age you were not expected to know really anything about cancer. Everything I knew came from stories and not all ended well so I really had no clue what to think. For example, my grandma had died of cancer when I was one and I never really understood how or why. This story really terrified me as Jill was someone I cared about so much and someone I would do anything for. When I came to school that day in grade 6, I was shocked to see her as she had been gone for a few days before and the winter break was coming soon. I noticed she was being shy and well that is very uncharacteristic of her. She then explained why she had the port (a port-a-cath is surgically inserted to allow easier access for chemotherapy treatments) in her arm. At first all I could think about was that I would not get to see my best friend as often as I was used to and I would constantly be wondering how she was doing. This is when we decided to write in a journal. Kathleen would be the go between allowing for Jill to write in it one night and myself the next. This was really the only contact we had because she couldn’t come to school and it meant the world to me. She would also send messages to the class about how she was doing, which was something we all needed. From that point on, our class tried to do all they could to cheer her up beginning with funny videos, stories, cards and a scrapbook. We did our best to show her how much we cared and how much we truly missed her.
Just when we thought she was healthy and ready for the next school year, we were informed about the relapse. The emotion I had felt was much deeper compared to the first time as I was more informed about what she was going to have to go through again. I just couldn’t imagine her feelings knowing she was to go through this process again. Before Jill, it was almost unheard of in my mind for someone our age having cancer. She was so brave along with another close friend of mine who was experiencing similar medical complications. The neighbors I grew up with were ones I looked up to and the strength they had shown and continue to show is truly inspiring. If you looked at her now you could never tell the journey that she has had. She has truly conquered cancer not only once but twice. She does not let it define her and she continues to strive for greatness in the humblest way. I feel so lucky to have a friend who is beautiful, strong, smart, athletic, funny, humble and remarkable. I believe she can accomplish anything and I can’t wait to experience University with her as it is the next big step in our lives.”
To say that a cancer diagnosis affects everyone; the patient, their family, their friends and their community is certainly an understatement. I hope that by sharing the experiences of my sister Jill’s three friends, it has helped my readers realize that everyone is affected when someone they love is diagnosed with cancer.
Please help me to spread awareness of Childhood Cancer and let’s make a difference is the lives of kids like my sister Jill and my friend Paige.