I have actually been experiencing this quite a bit, as of late. And I cherish it each and every time.
I often find it hard to describe these connective encounters, but I'm going to attempt to depict a recent happenstance that has really made an imprint upon me....
Here we go:
~A girl contacts me on Facebook, having found me on one of the many melanoma groups I am part of- The Badass Melanoma Warriors.
~The message I get is about trying out for a commercial, one that has ties to cancer.
~I email her pictures (as requested); she calls me.
~And our phone call is where the magic is revealed....kindred minds unveiled!
We get off topic slightly, moving away from the commercial and more toward my melanoma story. And then, this person on the phone, the one I already feel connected to, tells me that SHE has melanoma.
She tells me of her story. I am forever changed. This is why it is so important we tell our stories. They make a difference, wake people up, shed light on the reality of this disease.
Her story, in brief, goes like this:
~Jaime is 26 when she goes in to see a doctor about a mole on her back that has been there for awhile and is bleeding.
~The biopsy comes back- melanoma. Wide excision, lymph nodes removed.
~Lymph node pathology comes back CLEAN- no cancer. Jaime is told to get skin checks every 6 months and that no scans are needed. Good to go.
~5 years later, Jaime has extreme pain in her abdomen, goes to the ER, has a chest X-ray which shows cancer is in multiple places. She is admitted for further examination (liver biopsy, CT scan, etc).
~Diagnosis: melanoma in her chest, lung, liver, and brain. Stage 4 melanoma, BRAF positive.
~Treatment thus far: Yervoy/BRAF and Gamma Knife twice.
After hearing her story, not only was I in shock, as I seem to always be when I hear of melanoma stories like this, I know we have been woven together...for some reason. And I say to her, "I don't care about this commercial thing, the next time I am in LA, we must get together." And we did....about 2 weeks ago.
Our meeting, for me, was such a clear example of how these paths that cross, often so randomly, yet not, create unexplainable unity. We talked, laughed, pondered, bonded. As theologian John Fawcett said, in the hymn Blessed Be the Tie That Binds, "We share our mutual woes; our mutual burdens bear; And often for each other flows a sympathizing tear." I did not want our time together to end. It felt like we could have talked for days straight, understanding every word each other would utter.
I cried on the way home from this...feeling immense empathy, love, understanding and admittedly, fear...just thinking about melanoma, how people come together, feel understood, can really relate, etc. We had all of that at this lunch together...and will have all of that forever.
We both acknowledged that we use humor as a way to cope sometimes, and we both know this is a way of attempting to deal with the barrage of insanity this disease brings with it. We also know that, like Erma Bombeck said, "There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain." #truthbomb
We both love to use the word f*ck, and especially enjoy telling melanoma to f*ck off (as you can see in the pic above). This is apparent in Jaime's blog posts, as well as mine. You can follow Jaime's melanoma journey here : The Jaim Abides
Oh, and you can get these hats here: FxCK CANCER Foundation
And so it is, this horrible disease has woven together, people who had never met before...in a way that we will forever be connected to each other. I am so grateful for the blessings to be found in the storm.
I love you Jaime!
"There Will Be a Light" By Ben Harper & The Blind Boys of Alabama