The other night, as we pulled into the parking lot on the way to Zumba, I recognized the license plate of the car parked next to us. I hurried into the locker room, hoping to catch someone I haven’t seen in years. I got changed and as I was about to leave the locker room I saw my best friend’s mother.
Our greeting was complete with big hugs and shrieks of happiness catching most of the people in the locker rooms attention.
She looked great. She looked happy! And yet I still had to try hard to fight back tears. She had been like a mother to me, I spent so many hours in her home in high school, it was like I lived there. It had been about 6 years. When I got engaged, my hubby and and we spent about 2 hours sitting on her porch in the sunshine talking and laughing. I’m angry at myself for letting that much time go by, but then sometimes, it hurts to see her without Lacy.
Lacy was my best friend from as far back as I can remember. We spent countless hours talking about boys, eating veggies and dip, dancing in the living room, cruising around (like teenagers tend to do in a small town where things rarely happen) and sharing secrets. Her smile could light up a room and when she laughed it was infectious. She was beautiful, in all senses of the word. In our high school yearbook she listed me as one of her heroes and now I count her as mine.
Lace was diagnosed with a rare form of adolescent bone cancer (Ewings Sarcoma) when she was 18 years old. She went through very intense treatments that made her so sick, she had to be hospitalized every time she had chemo. Her beautiful dark hair fell out in clumps. She was afraid to wash her hair. I remember the tears of sadness, hurt and of fear as she fought her mother not to wash it, in fear more would fall out.
Those moments where you saw her struggle with what she was going through were very few and far between. She forged a fight like I had never seen before. She cracked jokes about her illness (“The good thing about chemo is you never have to shave your legs,”) she kept smiling that smile and she kept dancing. Lace loved to dance, and she never let the pain stop her.
After a bout of sandwich chemo (chemo for 2 weeks, then radiation, then back to chemo) for several months, Lace was in remission. No words ever sounded so sweet!
The celebration was short lived. We found out right around her 21st birthday that the cancer had spread to her lungs. I remember some of us girls were supposed to get together and Lace called me and told me she wasn’t feeling up to it. I remember how the tears flowed as she told me the news. I had been hopeful and this was the last thing we were hoping for. But she remained hopeful, still smiling that smile. She started going to get experimental treatments that worked for a while before the cancer started to grow again.
I was at work one night when we got the news that Lace had experienced a brain bleed while on her way to her treatments. She had lost a lot of mobility and the cancer had spread to her brain.
With all that bad news, her hospital room was still always filled with laughter. That was the room the nurses wanted to go in. We would spend hours talking and laughing and all just being together.
They started radiation on her brain and she eventually made it home. She stayed in a hospital bed in her living room since she was unable to take the stairs to get to her room.
She was doing so well, or seemed to be. But then, Lace always smiling and laughing, always seemed to be ok.
On September 25th 2006, I got the news I had never wanted or expected to hear. In an instant my world would never be the same. Lace was gone. The best friend and the best woman I have ever known was gone.
Her mom took every minute she had to be with Lace. She took leave from work and took her to every treatment, every doctor’s appointment and shared every quiet moment that the rest of us were shielded from. When I see her face, I see Lacy and so many memories, smiles, and tears. Seeing her reminds me of a place I will never be again, with my friend. I guess that’s why I haven’t tried as hard as I could to see her more often.
Right before Zumba started, she walked up to be and pointed to my Livestrong bracelet. (Lace got me one the Christmas after she was first diagnosed, and while I’ve had to buy new ones since then, I have not gone a day without wearing it since) She tapped my wrist and smiled, that beautiful smile (I know that’s where Lace got it from) and said “She’s always with you isn’t she?”
Yes, she certainly is.
Seeing her mom the other night reminded me how very much I miss my friend. There never has or ever will be anyone like her ever again in this world. Seeing her also made me realize I shouldn’t be avoiding her mom because I miss Lace, but I should be spending more time with her. I see so much of Lace in her. I see perseverance and determination. I see that smile and hear that laugh and I’m taken back to the many hours I spent with Lacy.
I feel guilty for not keeping better touch with her, but I’m going to do my best to change that. Not only is my best friend gone, but so is her daughter. I think maybe she needs me as much as I need her.
I’m gearing up for my second year participating in Relay for Life. I relay for Lace and all the other best friends. I still pick up the phone to call her sometimes. I wonder what her life would be like now. I wish she could meet my husband and my babies. I wish we could turn up the radio, and dance until our breath was gone. Someday…. someday