A man puts his arm around the outline of his friend who has passed away

My Friend Died...Again

It’s March 1, 2019. My friend died of cancer…again. This is not the first time, nor the second. In the midst of my grief, I make a mental count of how many I have lost to this dreaded disease.

My loss

At 4:30am this morning, my friend Ron passed away. I met him a number of years ago. We both worked at a homeless shelter helping people who had lost their way. He was a good, honest, family man who truly cared for those on the fringes of society. His illness took a heavy toll him, physically yet he never wavered emotionally. I sent him Facebook messages several times a week and found him to be stronger than I in many respects.

My gain

They say that when people die from cancer that they “lost their battle.” Nah, I don’t agree. Ron won his. He died the way he lived, with dignity and honor. It seemed that he won every battle, every skirmish. I admired him. I never heard him complain. Maybe he had tender moments alone, but I never knew about them. He was heroic. He was my gain.

Getting this off my chest

So, why do I submit this article? Well, the reality is that we all lose people and we all have known someone who died from cancer. Many of us know people who succumbed to melanoma. If we are to discuss prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and healing, then we also must recognize and honor those who have left us (in body, if not in our hearts). I just felt like I needed to get this off my chest in some way because I am hurting.

Why I advocate

I have participated in the Ride for Roswell fundraising and awareness bike ride several times. It’s a huge thing in Western New York. Thousands of riders bring in millions of dollars to support this tremendous place. A few years ago, I was asked to say a few words at the finish line of my ride. I introduced myself and told everyone that I was a melanoma survivor and that I was riding because I was an advocate. I rode because I wanted to support others through raising awareness, supporting those in treatments, and honoring those who had passed.

Coping with loss: before, during, and after

For me, awareness (prevention), treatment (support), and remembrance (honor) are all linked to my mission. Each is important. Each part presents its own challenges, but the final component can be the toughest. Honoring and remembering those I have lost is so bittersweet, yet so rewarding. In the end, it’s why I am advocate.

Find your community

We all process things in our own way. For me, finding community both online and off helps. I think Ron would have wanted me to be motivated by his passing to serve and help others. It is how he lived his life. My suggestion is to talk about what is heavy on your heart. Find kindred spirits who will help carry your burden for a season as you heal and move forward. One day you will find yourself in the same position with others and can encourage them in their grief. You can encourage them with the encouragement you have received.

For today, I remember my friend and move forward.

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