The last several years have been anything but easy for me. To go from being a perfectly healthy twenty-something grad student to somebody sick enough to need an organ transplant is a big adjustment, to say the least.
This is my life, and I’m the one who’s had to live through all of these things, but I know they’ve impacted you too. No man is an island, so John Donne says.
When I drafted this, I was going to say that you didn’t choose to have a chronically ill friend any more than I chose to have a chronic illness. Then I realised that this isn’t true. By the simple fact you’re still part of my life, I think it’s safe to say that you DID choose to have a chronically ill friend. You didn’t have to stay.
While I’ve been trying to sort my life out, I’ve been surrounded by huge numbers of medical staff, patient support groups and transplant liaison people, all trying to make sure I can cope with what’s happened to me. They’ve helped, but some days, it wasn’t them I wanted to talk to. It has never made a difference that a fair few of you have been on the other side of the world for the last four years. In every way that mattered, you were still here.
It also doesn’t matter that you “don’t know what to say”. Because you are my friends, the words themselves are insignificant, it’s the fact you bothered saying them, and didn’t do that awful thing of not knowing what to say, so saying nothing at all! That has happened a lot. Nothing is more isolating than feeling like your problems are so awful that people don’t even know where to start.
Thanks for your amazing ability to “just know” when to treat me normally and when to make allowances. I don’t know how you do it, but you do. Even though I’ve changed hugely in the last six years, I’m still myself. Still an overgrown child…and probably still as annoying as hell at times. I suppose if that hasn’t changed by now, it never will! Ha! #sorrynotsorry
Something else you’ve done, probably without even realising it, is letting me be your friend too. Even though a lot of the time, I’ve been the one who has needed the support, help and special treatment, I’m not so broken, or so self centred, that I don’t realise that sometimes you need me more than I need you. I know my illness and I are not the centre of the universe. I wouldn’t want us to be. Thank you for not shutting me out of your life, and your struggles, through fear that I won’t cope or worse, don’t care. I do. I realise that life can be shit in a thousand different ways.
My entire life has been picked up and flipped upside down, but you have stayed. I could not ask for more.
“Be there. Only be there. Do not leave when you feel uncomfortable or when you feel like you’re not doing anything. In fact, it is when you feel uncomfortable and like you’re not doing anything that you must stay.”
– Everything Doesn’t Happen For a Reason, Tim J. Lawrence