Almost immediately, Betsy accepted my friend request and responded. After her surgery, we continued to message, exchanged phone numbers and started to hash out a plan.
Her singleness was the product of a divorce; mine was the result of my marriage to wanderlust.
Betsy has been host to several brands of “the big C,” where melanoma has been my sole nemesis.
But the number of similarities in both our upbringings and cancer journeys were uncanny.
When I was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma and started undergoing treatment, a lot of people suggested that I check out some support groups. In fact, I used to be a mental health counselor and would strongly recommend support groups to others in my circumstances. I signed on for weekly one-on-one psychotherapy and I am lucky enough to have a vast network of both close confidantes and sidelines cheerleaders. What I would give, as a writer, to have been a fly on the wall during that conversation.
Because cancer is like the opposite of a rare disease, there were plenty of people within that vast network who could relate, on some level, to what I was going through. Still reeling, my mom returned home and excitedly relayed the whole encounter.
Unfortunately, most of the people I had known with stage 4 cancer were no longer around to discuss the kinds of thoughts and emotions that late-stage cancer breeds. When she walked in, the salon owner, a long time friend and confidante, ushered her to a chair. " she motioned to my mom, "..you," she pointed to the woman seated next to her, "You two NEED to talk about your daughters" Our moms quickly discovered that we were both 41 and graduated from neighboring high schools. And when I say excitedly, I mean, with profound sympathy in her voice and shaking her head from side to side as she listed off the similarities. My mom told me she had taken the mom's number, with the addendum that Betsy was scheduled for lung surgery in the next day or two.
In this, there was a profound sense of isolation... She would be recovering at her folks house, practically around the corner, in the weeks to come.
Both with surgeries and treatments and brutal side effects and recurrences in our recent histories. The lowest common denominator was that we are both being treated by the same beloved oncologist.
My mom, who is awesome about not pushing “support-y” things on me, tentatively asked if I thought I might contact Betsy. I'm definitely going to reach out." She smiled and nodded, proud in the same kind of way she has been when she's given me just the right birthday gift.
An hour later, I found myself scoping Betsy out on Facebook.
I was sure her mom had already told her about meeting my mom... I friended her and shot her a message, wished her well on her surgery and told her that, as soon as she was feeling up to it, I'd love to get together.