I feel like in the past year and a half, my life has become surrounded by my diagnosis. Yes, I had cancer, I had to go through treatments that significantly changed my look, my life plans, view on life, and relationships. My Timehop pops up daily, and my posts from the past year are all bald headed, chemo filled, shit. I look at my posts from 2+ years ago, and I have long blonde hair, am carefree, living the life of just another 20 something year old.
I was cruising my instagram the other day, and went to answer some of my DM’s and it hit me. I am sooooo thankful that because of my journey, I am able to now advocate, counsel, and guide young girls and women like me just entering this journey or whom aren’t as open as I am. I have the opportunity to share tips, answer questions, and inspire women daily, and that is simply magical! Although I am “cancer-free” technically speaking, the thing that many people don’t realize is once you are diagnosed with any cancer… it is with you for the rest of your life! I wonder if my “old friends” are embarrassed, don’t feel like they can reach out to be a part of my life because I’m now “different”. It literally feels like ai have cooties! I’m not sure many of my friends understand this new “me”…
Growing up through middle school and high school, I wasn’t the most popular however I was a cheerleader and tried to be nice to everyone. I wasn’t really part of any certain “clique” however I had a lot of friends and aquaintences from all different groups. When I went off to college, I felt like it was a new beginning. I instantly made friends, many I know will be a part of my life forever!
When I was initially diagnosed, I know it was a major shock for many people. Heck, I announced it to hundreds of friends and family through one single Facebook post! I instantly had my inbox and cellphone absorbed in messages from people I would consider my closet friends, and many other I haven’t talked to in forever but once had a significance in my life.
After our magical wedding, and once I began treatments, it was as if my friends and their communication started dwindling away. When at one time, my hubby and I would always be invited out on a Friday night… my days began to be filled with fatigue and weakness and basically I didn’t have the energy to party anymore. Not that drinking was everrrr a big part of my life, however I would drink a “jolly rancher” here or there and have a good time. Once I got cancer, became bald, and “sick” those calls and invites began to dwindle.
I must say, many friends and family gathered around, mailed me gifts and packages and that truly made the awful situation a little brighter, and those special gestures will be forever cherished. However, some of my friends who I would consider the closet in my life began to slowly drift away. I have over 8,000 followers on my instagram– about 1500 of those I had prior to my diagnosis, and I have realized that hardly anyone from my “pre-cancer” life “likes” or messages me regarding my journey. Is it that you don’t know what to say? Are you embarrassed that I flash me scars? Does it seem that I’m not the same me? I completely apologize that this is my life now, and I can tell you I post selfies and my tits because I want to save the life of one young girl like me!!! You truly don’t understand how awful this journey is until you live it… and if I can help one girl feel a little more comfortable in her skin, than I will post away!
There has been times where statements have been made that I don’t “like” to go out anymore, i’m not as “fun” as I used to be, or John and I are stuck in our own “bubble” and don’t like to hang out with people… however that is far from our reality! Please understand that our life simply isn’t the same however WE are the same! (its quite the concept, it is confusing)
I want to write this post not the shame anyone, that is the very LAST thing I would ever want to do because I completely understand that life goes on and its hard sometimes to find the time to check in etc. I do however want to give some recommendations for people with friends or family going through a cancer or any disease journey!
- Be supportive: This doesn’t mean just day 1, this doesn’t mean send a kazillion gifts, this doesn’t mean you have to absorb yourself into their journey… however a friendly text now or then goes a longggggg way! While they are going through treatments, a lot of time is spent doing more sedentary tasks, sitting in a chair for hours at a time at chemo, or resting in bed because they don’t have the energy to get up. By you reaching out and saying a simple “hi”, it can make someones day.
- Offer realistic assistance: We have ALL been in the situation when someone is going through a rough time and we say the famous line, “if you need anything… let me know”, but do we really mean it? Well, I can be the first to tell you that many people don’t mean that at all. Instead of saying, DO! If someone is going through treatment, bring them dinner, find time to plan an afternoon visit, sit down and watch a movie or paint nails together, just show up… it is truly those little “visits” that mean the most!
- Dont disappear: Looking back on my journey, hell it is scary! I completely changed on the outside, but I promise… deep down I am still the fun, carefree, goofy girl I used to be. I may be bald but I still like to break it down, and drop it low ;). I might be tired all the time, but maybe this Friday night we could go out for dinner. If you live far away, check in… a simple “how are you doing”is difficult to answer truthfully because most likely I feel like shit, look like shit, and don’t really want to tell you about my reality. Instead, ask me about my day, familiarize yourself with what is going on in my life. Send me a freakin quote or riddle that is going to make me smile.
**The best gifts are the most meaningful and thoughtful… a handwritten card addressed to me with a memory of when things were “normal” are the absolute best!
I am beyond thankful for my family and close friends for getting through my darkest times; without them, I wouldn’t have the sparkle and strength to be where I am today! However, it truly breaks my heart that I feel like my journey has caused me to lose friends that I thought I would have forever. In a way, it might be me being selfish, and of course I am able to reach out to them… but a part of me remains salty as hell that you couldn’t be there for me during my lows, but yet I jump when people need my help. Grrrr…. I feel so awful writing this but I just simply have to get it off my chest.
Those just entering your journey, know that nothing will be the same. Deep down you are still “you” however that “you” will soon become a much stronger, more courageous, and determined “you” than ever before. If you are lucky like me, you will meet new friends that are or have also been through a journey like yours… and you will be able to text or call them at the wee hours of the morning because you feel an ache or pain because, they “get it”. Many of your “friends” will not understand what you are going through because they have never experienced a journey like “cancer”. Be kind, be patient, and take my advice and speak up and tell them how you feel instead of holding it in like me and holding a grudge.
To my “friends” and family that I talk to daily, thank you! You have kept me going and I forever owe you for that. I promise to see you soon! And to my friends that I haven’t talked to in months… Hello, my name is now Meghan Koziel, and yes I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 26. I went through chemo, lost my hair, had my boobs cut off, and am fearful everyday that my cancer is going to come back… however, deep down, I am still me. I miss you, and I would LOVE to hear from you or go out like the old days.