When I was in highschool I was befriended by this loud outspoken, tall, beautiful girl, who happened to have a black belt in Karate and decided I’d be a good friend to have.
My mother is a PEDS ICU nurse. We found the church we went to through a patient’s family. This beautiful girl who passed away at 16. Her mom invited my mom to church. When I came to youth group I was shy, scared and lonely. So when this amizing girl, best friend of the girl who lost her battle. Who was three years older than I, approached me, I was in awe. She taught me Karate, modeled what it means to be a good friend and advocate and gave me the beautiful gift of friendship.
Fast forward a few years. Sam and I had stuck together for the most part. She took a slight hiatus from church, had gorgeous twins girls at 19 which was a bit of a scandal at our church since one of the associate pastors sons was the father. But she took it all in stride. I found myself in a similar situation at 20. Pregnant, scared, hating myself. But did Sam judge me? No. Did she yell at me? Maybe a little. But mostly she loved me. I don’t know what I would’ve done without my beautiful fearless friend. She was the photographer at my wedding, my best supporter. When her girls were about one, Sam started having awful back pain. She went to the er a few times but was just given pain pills and sent away. She had no health insurance. When her girls were a few years older she met an amazing man and was married in January of 2006. Shortly after she married she had a beautiful baby boy. The entire time from onset of pain to her son’s first birthday Sam suffered. Her condition got so bad during pregnancy doctors finally took notice. By now she had military coverage since her hubby was a naval submariner. He was gone 6 months of the year in 3 month chunks. During one of those away times Sam’s doctors decided it was finally time for some more conclusive testing. She had no help so I packed myself and my 2 year old and 6 month old on a greyhound bus and went to help her for 10 days. During that time I cared for my sick friend, laughed, cried, watched way too many episodes of Scrubs and got the gift of being there for my friend. We had some amazing moments, some scary sad moments. But those will be there forever and for this I guess I have to say thank you to Cancer. Because that was the name of the culprit, the nasty awful thing that eventually stole my beautiful friends life. CANCER. Sarcoma, actually. A week after I went home, Sam called me. She was in tears. The results were in, her doctor asked her where her husband was and said it was time to bring him home. She wanted to wait to tell Sam when Josh was there. But in true Sam fashion she demanded answers. She wanted to know, so she could make a plan and be there for Josh when she had to break the news. Selfless, always thinking of others, that was Sam. When I got the call I was with a group of church ladies at one of their houses having a play date and chatting. I excused myself and took my call outside. CANCER. A mass the size of a peach on her spine… more tests. Josh was flown home immediately. A few days after that Sam had a Pet Scan. The medical staff injected special dye into her body that would cause all of her tumor to glow when exposed to some kind of radiation it think. Well, what they thought was a mass on her lower spine turned out to be EVERYWHERE. In Sam’s words “my entire pelvis and some of my lungs and other parts lit up like a frigging Christmas tree!” I sat down for that one. I asked her what the plan was. There was ALWAYS A plan. This was Sam! Fearless and flawless and beautiful. Surely she would beat this! And she tried, oh how she tried. She fought with all her might. When her doctor said (after a couple rounds of chemo and radiation) to go home and get her affairs in order bc there was nothing they could do for her, she had maybe 6 months. She looked at them and said “F&%$ you! I’ll go out on MY OWN terms!” She bought herself another year or so of good quality life with sheer will and a special diet she read about. In March of 2009 my sweet friend, my beautiful, amazing, warrior lost her fight to cancer. We stayed in touch over all those months. I never got to see her again in person. She never met my youngest son, although she demanded I call her when he was born, even if it was 2am. Thank god he was born at like 11am. Sam and Josh bought a home, she painted it and remodeled it. She ripped bushes out at 7am and called to tell me about it. She lived her life fully and fearlessly until she just had no energy left.
So I guess i wrote all this to say, Cancer taught me a lot. It taught me to cherish moments, cherish life. Cancer taught me that even though it crushes someone’s body, it can’t crush their spirit, not truly. Because i know Sam and she’s in Heaven right now, singing and dancing like a loon and probably helping Jesus pick new paint for his walls. So thanks Cancer, for teaching me to slow down and also for letting me know you can’t ever truly win. Love conquers all. Sam lives forever in my heart and I’m the Mother and friend I am today bc of her example. My favorite song is “The Words I Would Say” by the Sidewalk Prophets, the lyrics are things Sam and I said to eachother on a regular basis. I listen to it all the time, especially when i miss her and don’t know whay to do in a situation. So thank you to Cancer and to Sam, I love you sweet one, see you when I get there.