By Caitlin Kelly
If you’re going to somehow get through a frightening time in your life — whether it’s health, work, family, marriage, kids’ issues — you need a rock, someone you can turn to who’s as firm and solid as a boulder, something steady and calm to lean against and take shelter behind, a fixed point you know will be there the next day and the next and the next, no matter what happens.
As I got my breast cancer diagnosis — ironically, sitting on rocks at the edge of the Hudson River in the New York town where we live — my husband Jose had just left for work in the city on the commuter train. I sat in the June sunshine alone absorbing this news, delivered by phone by my gynecologist.
Those vows include, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health…Sept. 2011
Since then, as he has been throughout our 18 years together, Jose has been my rock. For which I’m so damn grateful and so damn fortunate. He came with me to every meeting with every doctor, (and there have been five MDs), listening and taking notes as a second set of eyes and ears. I’m not a person who cries easily or often — maybe a few times a year — but in the past five months, have done a lot of that. He’s stayed steady.
There’s an old-fashioned word I really like — character. Jose has it. I’d seen it on multiple occasions as we were dating. I wanted it in my second husband, that’s for damn sure.
So lucky to have had the kindness of this fantastic team!
Then there’s gravel, a poor metaphor perhaps, for the pals and acquaintances whose love and sweet gestures have also proven hugely supportive, through letters, cards, calls, texts, flowers and even gifts. None of which I really expected.
Some live in distant countries. Some are editors I’ve worked with for years and have still never met. Some are women I went to school with decades ago. All of whom stepped up.
There were several putatively close friends I assumed would check in — and who proved wholly absent. That hurt. But it happens, and you have to know, especially with this disease, some people will flee and totally abandon you.
The most depressing thing I heard this summer — and it truly shocked me — is that some cancer patients have no one at all to turn to. No family. No friends. I can’t imagine facing the fears, pain, anxiety and many tests and treatments without someone who loves you sitting in the waiting room with you, driving you to appointments, holding your hand.
I recently got a call from a younger friend facing her own crisis, and was so honored and touched that she called me. I try to be a rock for the people I love. Sometimes I’ll fail them, I know.
But that’s what we’re all here for.
Be the rock.
Or be gravel.