Friday, July 8, 2011

Part C: A Tumultuous Friendship

Have you ever known a person and although you would in the final analysis consider yourselves to be friends, on a day to day basis you frequently clash? Such was the case with Shawn and myself.

I say the word "was" because now we are closer than we have ever been in the twenty two years we have known each other. I'm  not sure what happened between us except that we have both been through very tough medical issues.

Sometimes when we are faced with debilitating medical challenges we can rise to the occasion, demonstrating strength, courage and perservence or not. As I have discussed in previous blog writings, we all have a tendency to judge each other. Although I try to monitor this when trying to reserve judgment, I sometimes fail, as I did originally with Shawn.

Shawn has been dealing with cancer for a couple of years now. He has demonstrated as much courage and strength as anyone I have ever known. I would never have thought he would have risen to this level of courageousness had I not been akin to his situation personally.

Shawn and I used to work together starting in the late eighties. We had an on again off again  friendship. A few years later I found myself doing work for Shawn. Shawn is a successful realtor. During the course of his career, Shawn experienced prosperous times, which did not surprise me, he has always been a good sales person.

As Shawn was developing his career as a realtor, I was developing my career as an interior decorative painter. Shawn was frequently "throwing business" my way,  this was a mutually benefical proposition for both of us. He was sending business and I was providing a product that enhanced his ability to sell property.

Our relationship was not without it's problems. Sometimes I felt Shawn expected me to do things with unreasonable notice or for an inappropriate price. I think Shawn felt underappreciated by me for sending so much business my way. Needless to say there were verbal exchanges between the two of us that I am sure we have both regretted.

It is not unusual for friendships  to feel strained-- sometimes to the breaking point. Shawn and I were at this point many times. In fact I know a couple of times we mutually felt our friendship and working relationship was over.

As my medical issues became more serious, Shawn was there for me and still is. He never hesitated to offer help and was a frequent visitor  to the hospital during all of my admissions. I really appreciate that.

A few years ago Shawn learned he had cancer. When he first spoke of the cancer to me, I was immediately struck by his candor and his resolute optimism. He was not going to let this "cancer thing" get the best of him.

He made me realize after all these years the real importance of our friendship. Sometimes I feel as if perhaps I have not been participatory enough in his journey through the mine field of cancer.

Fortunately Shawn has a devoted significant other who has conducted himself with an all encompassing love and devotion I find heartwarming. Not unlike myself, Shawn is very close to his sister, Lisa. She has been there for him just like my sister, Rhonda, has been here for me.

Even though Shawn and I have been going through our own personal "medical hell" at the same time, we have talked openly and freely about what we have felt about our respective health issues. I have told Shawn many times how proud I am of him and of the admiration I have for the courage he has shown during such a dismal period of his life. He has voiced the same feelings toward me.

Last August Shawn asked me to go on a Caribbean cruise with him, his sister Lisa, and his brother-in-law Dan. I was of course somewhat apprehensive,  at that time I had only lost one of my legs. Suffice it to say, I had a great time. At that time I had  come a long way in my adjusting to living with one prosthetic leg.

Shawn however, was not doing as well with respect to his cancer issues. In fact he was very close to cancelling the trip. He told me not to worry his sister and brother-in-law would take good care of me. I told Shawn there was no way I was going on this cruise without him. I'm not sure whether Shawn felt better, or why he decided to go forward with the trip, but nonetheless we went.

It wasn't too long before I realized just how bad Shawn was actually feeling physically. I had anticipated that there were going to be moments of sharing our deepest feelings and vunerabilities about our respective health issues, and there were moments. Without devulging too much let me just say there were tears from both of us.

At one point after realizing Shawn was really too ill to have taken this cruise, I asked him point blank, if he had decided to come on the cruise because he wanted me to experience such a trip? He said yes. What can I say about that  kind of sacrifice?

As the saying goes, "these are the times that try men's souls," these are the times that have tryed our friendship. We, Shawn and I, have weathered a lot of storms together and in the end it has solidified and strengthened our friendship.

Perhaps one of the most benefical things to come out of our respective illnesses has been our friendship, stronger than ever, all the way to the end, and I am so thankful. 


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