From the time Tracy, 43, was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was her cheerleader. Though as work colleagues, I wasn’t in her closest circle of friends, I felt compelled to support her and her husband Scott through this difficult time.
Over the years, I’ve learned that people who are ill are not always up for face-to-face visitors but still want to stay connected and be treated as they were before the diagnosis. So through Tracy’s surgery and chemo treatments, I made sure I was there for her. We had fun text exchanges, and she even created a handle, Key-Mo Gurl, with a caricature that looked like Elmo. This was Tracy – bright, funny, and always helping others feel comfortable. It was so difficult to watch such a strong woman be so diminished by cancer.
On a “good chemo day,” I brought Tracy home-baked muffins and strawberries and enjoyed breakfast with her. And, I made chocolate chip cookies for Scott, with strict instructions that I not give him too many so he wouldn’t “get fat.”
When an opportunity to start a new business project surfaced, I engaged Tracy, knowing that the project would keep her mind busy and she’d be extremely valuable to the team. One day, Tracy made the bold choice not to wear her wig to our meeting, sending me a strong message that she felt totally comfortable in my presence. That warmed my heart.
Once while I was traveling, Scott texted that Tracy was having mouth and stomach pain and no appetite. I reached out to my physician and friend, Dodi, and another friend, both who survived cancer, and shared their advice with Scott, who finally got Tracy to eat something.
A few days later, Tracy told me she was feeling better. But then 24 hours later, Scott texted that she was in the hospital. He didn’t want visitors, but the next day, when he told me he was concerned the doctor wasn’t following Tracy’s advance directive; I headed to the hospital without asking Scott. As I parked, I saw his words on my phone, “You are needed here.”
I was by Scott’s side when the nurses gave him the difficult news that he had to decide when to take Tracy off of life support. I suggested we call two of their close friends, knowing they’d be upset if they didn’t have a chance to be there for Tracy. They rushed to the hospital, and we all had time to be by this wonderful woman’s side before she passed away.
Because Tracy and Scott had no family, friends supported Scott through planning the memorial service, handling of the estate, and more. Our raw emotions made it tough; yet giving back to a friend who had graciously done so much for others came easy. Trying to be strong for Scott and Tracy’s very close friends, while working through my own loss and sadness, was a struggle, but I’ve had my time for own tears.
Caring for Tracy was an eye-opening experience. It reminded me how truly fleeting life is and how powerful the bonds of female friendship can be. It doesn’t matter if you’re best friends, casual friends, or work colleagues. Being there in someone’s time of need is what separates true friends from all the rest. I miss her terribly and often think, “What would Tracy do?” She will always be a force in my life.