My friend Cari is a clotheshorse. A serious clotheshorse. The woman has enough outfits that she could probably go more than two months without wearing the same thing twice… or even doing laundry. She turned the never-used 3rd bedroom in her house into her closet. Her closet. I, on the other hand, don’t have enough clothes to go a week without doing laundry. Well, I can, actually (and do, frequently… if it doesn’t smell, it’s good to wear, right?).
Yeah, Cari and I are different. In lots of ways. She’s lived in the same small town her whole life, now just a stone’s throw from the house she grew up in. I’ve lived in 4,567 different places. She got married at 20 to the only person she ever dated. I’ve dated more people than live in her whole town. She’s a homebody and likes to stay put. I like to go, every chance I get. She wears 4-inch heels. I wear Nikes. We’re very different. But those differences don’t matter one iota in our friendship because we’re also alike in many ways.
Though Cari is nine years younger than I am, our lives, up until a few years ago, mirrored each other’s in some very significant ways – primarily, we had babies at the same time. We also dealt with the devastating illnesses and deaths of our parents around the same time, too.
When I met her, just over a dozen years ago, her mom was sick. In fact, she’d been battling breast cancer on and off for a good portion of Cari’s life. I watched my friend deal with the gradual and permanent decline in her mother’s health, knowing she was going to lose her; knowing I was going to face the same thing with my dad a short time later. Going through that together cemented our friendship forever and though I hate how it happened, I’m eternally grateful that it happened.
Though I never met Cari’s mom, I went to her funeral. I heard about what a remarkable, strong woman she was; how she’d fought that horrible illness with everything she had. And though I never met her, I know beyond all doubt just how strong she was, because I see her strength every day in her daughter.
After losing several of the women in family to breast and ovarian cancer, Cari decided to have the controversial cancer gene-testing done. She’d had a baby by then – a baby boy named Nathan (after her mother, Natalie), who was born just 8 weeks after Ryan – and she wanted to do whatever she could to make sure she would be here for him. Cari knew the outcome of the testing before she even got the results – she knew in her heart she would test positive. And she did… for the BRCA1 gene. She also knew that carrying the gene increased her chances of getting breast cancer by 75%. So after much soul-searching, she stepped up and began a course of preventative treatments that would forever change and be a part of her life; that would alter her body and her chemical make-up; that would prevent her from having any other children; that would frustrate her and scare her; and that would hopefully let her live without the diagnosis that ended the lives of too many of the women in her family.
I’ve watched Cari face so many fears. When she was pregnant, she was terrified she’d have a little girl and pass on the breast cancer legacy. Knowing everyone in her family had been diagnosed around age 30, she traveled through the first part of her 30’s always looking over her shoulder. She’s had tests and scares and surgeries that have made her question everything, including her own sanity. In the last year, she’s had to deal with her little boy’s diagnosis of juvenile diabetes. But always – always – she has faced everything with grace and courage… and in 4-inch heels.
We used to take long weekends together and, because Cari was afraid to fly, I used to go to her. The year my marriage ended, I couldn’t take the trip but she hemmed and hawed about coming down to me because she was scared. I told her I couldn’t understand how she could go through everything she did, and with such frequency, and yet still be afraid to fly – something millions of people do every day. When she looked at it that way, she realized I was right. And a couple of months later, after she faced yet another fear, I picked her up at the Charlotte airport for a long weekend of… you guessed it… shopping!
Cari is my hero. My hero in diva’s clothing. She is more like my sister than my friend and I love her. I am a better person for knowing her. And I hope that with the cancer research being done, and because of her tremendous courage and willingness to face what terrifies her, I’ll know her for the rest of my life.
I also hope you’ll click on the link to my 3-Day Event Donation Page and give what you can to the cause. And if you can’t donate, I hope you’ll pass on the link to my new Pink Page blog or my donation page to everyone you know. This horrible disease touches us all in some way, small or great. But it doesn’t have to. So let’s make it stop.
Cari and Nate.