Lessons I’ve learned from watching my best friend battle and lose her life to cancer.

Today officially marks one year since my best friend’s passing. Truth be told, this has been the hardest year of my life and mostly because she’s not here anymore. I want to believe that when someone you love dies, they’re never really gone from your life. But the truth is, I feel her absence so strongly.

She was one of the few people in my life who simply “got it” and understood me so easily. She consistently showed up for me, not just for the big life moments, but so many of the little mundane ones too. She never judged or criticized me or my decision-making. She loved me despite all my faults. If I’ve learned anything from losing her, it’s what friendship really means. It’s those friends who can sit and be present with you in joy, suffering, or complete silence throughout life’s circumstances that you must hold onto with both hands.

So today, in tribute to Amanda and the legacy she left behind, I’d like to share what she taught me.

Your best advocate is always yourself.

I grew up with Amanda and, for most of her young adult life, she was quiet and kept to herself. Of all my friends, she probably had the most solid foundation. She was stable and strong-willed and knew what she wanted to do in life (and conversely, not do). As a fellow introvert who was constantly striving for more learning and varied experiences, I appreciated these qualities in her.

I had the privilege of watching her grow over the years into an even stronger woman: someone loud and outspoken, particularly about her health. I felt immense pride in being her friend. She wasn’t afraid to fight for herself or what she believed in, even if it meant being vulnerable or if it made others feel uncomfortable or unsure of how to respond. She would stand in her power and tell the doctors how she wanted to be treated. She wasn’t afraid to be herself. She used her voice for good and to inspire goodness in others.

Get crystal clear about what you want and pursue it.

Whether it was her husband, Education degree, or dedication to caring for preschoolers, Amanda always knew what she wanted.

When I visited the Mayo Clinic in February 2017 with Amanda and we received some discouraging news about her rare chrondoblastic osteosarcoma, I realized I needed to follow her example. That year, I stopped being afraid of putting myself out there. I applied for a high-level job on a community college board. I approached dating like job hunting. Admittedly, I faced plenty of rejection in the process and I never got the job, but that same winter, I met my husband.

Make a decision and stick with it.

Amanda decided to pursue many clinical trials after that Mayo Clinic visit. I know she hoped that one would eventually lead to a cure. I’m certain that her faith is what kept her alive so long, as sarcoma is generally a death sentence.

Amanda didn’t look back after making the decision to pursue clinical trials, regardless of what other patients or her peers said. I often joked that she would go down in history books for being a guinea pig to science. I have no doubt that her participation in research and trials has improved other patients’ experiences and expanded awareness of sarcoma.

I am sad that she didn’t live long enough to see me become a mother or meet my son. But I know I wouldn’t be on this path of advocacy without learning these hard lessons in the process of losing her.

%d bloggers like this: