Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Friend Sarah

This year I have spent a lot of time in Liverpool. Yes! The Liverpool of Beatles fame in Northern England. I was surprised to learn that Liverpool's climate actually rarely sees snow because it's temperate maritime and the city is a recipient of warm bands of Gulfstream air. So this is why I've seen daffodils growing in Liverpool's parks in February. Spring comes early in Liverpool.

I've meandered down Penny Lane in March and have been a regular visitor to a wonderful public space known as an "allotment". It's a kind of cooperative where the good citizens of Liverpool may rent garden plots to raise fruit and vegetables or whatever their inner gardener desires.

I've clomped around in garden beds and dug for spring onions of all colors, fresh bulbs of garlic, and delicious little new potatoes. I've picked tomatoes and cucumbers and wondered aloud what to do with them all. I've even picked a pomegranate. A tropical fruit grown in Liverpool? Must be that Gulfstream air.

I've strolled down flower and tree lined rows of allotments. I've shaded myself under an apple tree and I've marveled at the bounty of the most beautiful pear tree I've ever seen. I've sat on the deck of the allotment shed, sharing a picnic and catching the last few rays of summer sunshine and I feel like I never want to leave.

Liverpool Cathedral
Image Source: Visit Liverpool
I've been on some delightful walks through the city of Liverpool, and have enjoyed visiting a 16th century synagogue and other historic landmarks. I've been for a ride on the the local bus, to a street market in Granby, a blighted area of town, which the residents hope will soon become an area of urban renewal. I could certainly see its charms the day I was there.

I have ambled through little villages, that are "just what one imagines an English village should look like." Lushly green, cosy little cottages, crumbling graveyards and medieval churches. I've hiked through gorgeous meadows and woods, and I've stopped for picnics at some breathtaking vistas on the miles of the Dee estuary, a short drive from Liverpool.  I've even been camping in a forest and was treated to an impromptu ukulele concert and singalong around the campfire on a trip to Lincolnshire.  And last but not least, who could forget icecream in the seaside town of Wirral. The town that no longer has a seaside, but my oh my the icecream was still delicious and worth the trek.

Readers, I'll stop here.

I haven't really been to Liverpool.  I haven't really been anywhere this year, except in minds eye. This year is littered with cancelled vacation plans due to medical issues. One crisis after another. I just don't seem to be able to catch a break. And with each new medical crisis I lose a little bit more confidence in being too far from the safety of home and my medical team. And as my confidence erodes, and my physical self gets a little weaker, I find myself leaving the house less. My world is shrinking right before my eyes.

And this is why I am so grateful for my friends.  Today I'd like to spotlight my friendship with Being Sarah. We met virtually after reading, and becoming ardent fans, of each other's blogs.  We struck up an email correspondence which has now morphed into regular Skype chats. A real friendship.

Sarah possesses a wonderful creative spirit and a zeal for life which is quite infectious. Something that has been in short supply around my house of late. But really one of the qualities that I love about her is that she has invited me to see life through her eyes. Sarah also happens to be a filmmaker, as well as an artist, author and blogger, so any opportunity she gets, she will send me short films of her adventures around Liverpool. I'll watch the film and, of course, have a ton of questions for her, which we'll cover in our marathon Skype chats. I like to talk about the details you see.  Sarah even came to visit me in June this year, and I had a wonderful time showing her my favorite spots in New Jersey and New York, and in 3D!

The thing that I seem to need most these days is brain stimulation.  My world is so much smaller now.  I spend so much of my time dealing with all things cancer, so I need to hear about the kinds of experiences that don't involve doctors, hospitals, tests, treatment or otherwise.

I hear constantly that people don't know what to say to me, which invariably translates into saying nothing at all. I hear that people worry about not wanting to bore me or somehow seem disrespectful for sharing the "mundane details" of their lives, which again, usually translates into saying nothing at all. But the truth is,  I can't live my life the way I want to live it, including the "mundane details." And who wants to talk about cancer, or listen to platitudes all of the time? I need to hear about other people's lives.  Even the mundane details.  I crave them. What's happening with your job? How's the family? What did you have for dinner last night? Have you seen any good movies lately? What's your favorite color? Details. Please, I need details.

Whilst not everybody is lucky enough to have a friend who is a  filmmaker,  this idea of sharing the "mundane details" of one's life with a friend who is ill,  whether it be via a film (amateur or professional!), photographs, postcards,  email, snail mail, a real life conversation (shock!) or some other means,  is golden.  It goes such a long way in helping to reduce those feelings of isolation, and can expand a person's shrinking world, if only for a couple of minutes. When I consider the friends that are currently in my life, their comfort in being able to share the details of their lives with me is a common thread and Sarah is tightly ensconced in that small circle. There is no insecurity on their part that I don't want to hear about it.  They know that I do. But they're also comfortable in letting me talk as well.

And so dear Sarah I say to you;

Thank you for the gift of your friendship at a time when I truly wondered if making new friends was even possible. Thank you for allowing me to talk when I need to. Thank you for giving me these wonderful glimpses into your life. Thank you for being there for me.
You enrich my life more than you know.

Thank you for just Being Sarah.
And for these wonderful films!
1. Granby 4 Streets
2. Spring Begins

A day of boating on the Jersey Shore with my friend Sarah.
Photo credit: My dear friend Jo, June 2011

This post is dedicated to  Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day and the friends and family who support us through thick and thin.  There's a blog post for each and everyone of you. 


  1. Hello, You are a wonderfull with words yourself. Sara sounds wonderfull. I understand how important friendships are, and how we must maintain them. I feel sorry for the people in your life who close up and dont fight through their own pain to figure out what to say, cause I love you and I need you are so comforing to all of us.

  2. Rachel, I can't read your posts without tearing up. I'm so glad you and Sarah have become such great friends. Who would have thought that was possible in this great big cyber world? Even though we care about each other, it seems a bit difficult to cross the boundary into actual, 3D as you say, conversation. A line of privacy that maybe stands strong. I'm glad you and Sarah crossed it. Just reading about your friendship makes me happy. And I'll be more than happy to share the mundane in my life anytime. I'll get back to you on that.

  3. And to you dear Rach I say:
    I'm so glad we found each other. I love the time we spend together, in person or Skyping, and they are some of the happiest and deeply satisfying times I have now.
    You enrich my life too.

  4. And thanks to my extremely fuzzy brain I forgot to mention there is a mirror post to this one on Being Sarah's blog called My Friend Rach.

  5. Rachel,
    I knew you and Sarah were friends but didn't know how much you communicated with one another. What a special relationship! It's hard to make new friends.

    I can identify with people not knowing what to say to you. Since James died unexpectedly this last Christmas, people steer clear and/or seem kind of awkward around me. I know it's because they don't know what to say as well as I suspect the concept that his heart stopped beating has made them think the same think could happen to them. Kind of like cancer... They don't want to get too close for fear they'll get "some" on them.

    Love Sarah & Ronnie's films. Thanks for sharing them with us.


  6. What a special friendship, and what an incredibly beautiful post. I hate that it took cancer to bring y'all together, but there it is. You are living my worst fear, and I admire your candor and honesty. I don't feel cured and don't think I will ever stop looking over my shouder, waiting for the cancer beast to re-establish itself.

    As for the details: my job (at-home mom) is great; long hours and low pay, but great. The family is terrific; hubby is in London for the week on business so the kids & I are eating popcorn & apples for dinner. Last night, I had popcorn & a Honeycrisp apple for dinner (!). I haven't seen a good movie in a while but am hoping to go to the new George Clooney one this weekend. And my favorite color is navy blue.

  7. Well, I came to your blog with my tissue and yes, I needed it here too. Friendships are truly gifts. I'm am so grateful you and Sarah have forged such a deep bond. I'm also honored to count you both as friends of mine, even if we never meet in person. But who knows??

  8. What a wonderful day when Being Sarah and The Cancer Culture Chronicles met in 3D. A day that changed everything.

  9. Rachel ~ you got me at Liverpool!

    ~ TC

  10. Loved this post.
    Wonderful that you and Sarah have such a friendship.

    You REALLY had me going on the Liverpool...I was thinking I wish that was me!!! LOL

    Sorry I haven't been around , but my first chemo knocked me for a loop. My Dr put me back on steroids at day 11 after...and I feel like a new person now..and am trying to catch up on my bloggie friends

  11. Rachel,

    I'm thrilled for your friendship with Sarah. Yes, as you know, making friends is still possible.

    And I know what you mean about wanting to hear about other things besides cancer. My friend Faun was that way. We talked about cancer, but she also yearned to know about what was going on with me. And I didn't disappoint.

    Here's to good friends!!


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