My Friend Lost her Luster, All Thanks to Breast Cancer

my-friend-lost-her-luster-all-thanks-to-cancer

This isn’t my story, but a story of my longtime friend Mar. We met in high school, then went on to study the same major in college. Also, we’d later go to the same company for our first ever jobs! Mar and I had our first few sleepovers together, and sometimes with our other friends. We both had a blessed life as best friends. No big, explosive arguments, no trouble over boys. In all respects were soulmates who found each other early on.

But in college, my friend lost her luster. 

I didn’t notice a problem immediately, but batchmates dropped comments about Mar. Just harmless comments about little things. Things like how Mar would submit assignments close to deadlines. Or how her schoolwork and output lost quality. In college, I didn’t pay close attention to grades, especially other peoples’. But I later found out Mar was getting Bs and Cs on nearly every subject she wasn’t interested in. 

Then one day, during our majors class, she checked her phone, excused herself, and did not return.

That same period we had a group assignment to handle. I was in the same group as Mar, and my team had to submit work at the end of the period. Thinking that she might still come back, I called Mar, asking where she was.

Mar said she was at the hospital. Her mother collapsed, Mar explained. She was on the verge of tears. I didn’t press her. I just said OK, ended the call, and got to work.

Later that day, Mar revealed to me that her mother had breast cancer. Not only that, her mother hid the fact that she had Stage 4 Cancer since the diagnosis up to her collapse.

Mar and her family paid dearly for her mother’s omission of truth.

Breast Cancer sucks.

I went to the wake almost every day.

It turned out that while Mar’s mom revealed she had breast cancer, she lied to her family, saying she was at Stage 2, not Stage 4. The truth came out only when she collapsed and passed away in the hospital.

Mar did a great job of not crying until the casket was laid in its resting place. 

After we went home, she did not answer her phone for a while.

I couldn’t stomach shows or series about hospitals or death for a while either.

Several weeks later, Mar broke out of the funk and wanted to get her mind off things. Thankfully she did not turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms while she was grieving at home. Yet, I wanted to do something good with her — something fun. So like before, we watched scary horror movies. As well as other horror films, I got her to watch Before I Wake with me. 

In that time of Mar’s grieving process, including that film was the worst mistake I’d ever made.

When the film’s twist hit us, my mistake was not turning off the film fast enough.

Mar had buried her face in her hand and started to cry. And then she cried harder. And then she started bawling her eyes out. And Mar wheezed and coughed for air. She cried and wailed and screamed. To this day, I can’t forget how loudly Mar cried.

We did not finish Before I Wake that evening. We watched Avatar: The Last Airbender instead. We were muted for the rest of the night.(Later, I finished the movie alone and cried a little, knowing what I knew with Mar. I think Before I Wake is a lovely story about the love of a mother. But, most of all, it’s about a child too young to know what cancer is, but old enough to know his mother is changing for the worse.)

Time heals all wounds, they say

Mar and I graduated. Then we went to the same company for our first-ever jobs. We continued hanging out. On special occasions, we had our movie night sleepovers.

During an overnight movie binge, Mar told me that her mother looked more and more like a skeleton as her cancer progressed. Jaundiced and frail, Mar’s mom couldn’t take herself to the bathroom, even if it was on the same floor. Mar’s mom had to be lifted by her sisters, then walked to the bathroom so she could do her business. All the while, her sisters — Mar’s aunts — held her up. They then had to clean her up, too.

And Mar could only remember her watching her skeletal-looking mother being carried to the bathroom. She told me she could do nothing but stare. Not because she was a lazy daughter, but because she felt helpless, looking at her weak mother.

Mad Max: Fury Road, a “scary” film

Years later, Mar and I were making plans about an action movie binge when she recommended Mad Max: Fury Road. Of course, I agreed immediately because I thought Tom Hardy was super handsome. (I still do!) 

We both loved Mad Max: Fury Road. It was thrilling, bombastic, and all-around amazing to watch. Of course, there were a lot of male characters. It’s an action movie! But, at its core, it was about the women characters taking back their independence and dignity from the villain. It was a story with substance and heart, and I fell in love with every character. (Except the villain. He was a d-bag.)

Then Mar told me it was the first time she’d seen Fury Road since her mother was alive.

Another fun fact about Mar is that she is a connoisseur of films (as well as food). She would always pick the restaurants to eat at. Also, she’d select movies to watch. Mar’s mother and father went along with Mar’s choices every time. According to her, neither of her parents complained. She chose good dining spots and movies for me, too, especially when we had the money. In my opinion, Mar never failed to deliver.

Then one day, Mar suggested Mad Max: Fury Road to her family.

Mar’s mother said no. 

Also, Mar’s dad didn’t bother to protest because he’s not a movie guy. If his wife went, he’d go, but if his wife didn’t, then he was going to stay home. So Mar lost two to one; she was mad, fuming, even. To her dismay, I ended up watching Fury Road twice, first with my then-boyfriend and then with a couple of friends from my club. And when she wanted to watch it with me, I told her I couldn’t go because my parents grounded me (I broke the no-boyfriend rule with my now ex.)

So Mar was cross

She got even more cross after seeing all the great reviews for Fury Road. She went back to her parents, time and time again, because her mom would say no.

Why did Mar’s mother, who always followed her daughter’s recommendations without complaint, say no this one time?

Because Mar’s mom heard from friends that the film was scary.

But Mad Max wasn’t a scary film at all, nor was it billed as a horror. In addition, the footage from the Fury Road trailer mainly came from the film’s very first sequence! The film did not show much of the mid-to-last portion of the story, with the strong women characters who gave the film its moral core.

By the time Mar found the above out, the film had already phased out of theaters.

Too little, too late

So Mar had to live with the fact that she couldn’t watch Mad Max: Fury Road with her family or me.

So when Mar’s mother was living out the last weeks of her life, Fury Road had a TV rerun one day. And Mar finally got to watch it with her family, especially her mother.

And you know what? Her mother didn’t find the film scary at all.

And here’s what made me cry:

When her mom realized Mad Max: Fury Road was a great film, after all, she gripped Mar’s hand a little tighter and told her daughter something we only hear from parents in a blue moon:

“I’m sorry.”

Mar described it not as the sort of “I’m sorry” that you say when you’ve been proven wrong about a seemingly “scary” action film. Instead, it was the “I’m sorry” you say when you realize you missed out on a fantastic movie experience — an experience you could have had with your loved one. And also, that you will miss countless more movie experiences from that point onward.

How it’s going

Mar’s doing fine now. We’re working at different companies. Also, we’ve taken to online watch parties nearly every weekend during the pandemic. Coincidentally, Mar’s become quite a fan of Mike Flanagan’s work. You’ll best recognize him as the guy who made The Haunting of Hill House, as well as Midnight Mass and the film sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep. In addition, he was responsible for Before I Wake. I am proud to say that Flanagan frightened me and brought me to tears in equal measure, and Mar is responsible for recommending his work to me. She’s an entertainment media connoisseur like that.

However, before the pandemic hit, I would sometimes see the void in Mar’s face, especially when she wasn’t smiling, laughing, or cracking a joke. She’s put it out of her mind, the fact that her mother waged a losing battle against breast cancer. Yet, I see just how empty she’s become. 

You see, having any kind of cancer means bearing the brunt of the disease’s physical agony. But your family will have to bear the agony of watching you suffer. Day in and day out, they will have to care for you and watch as you wince or cry or lay there in pain. And when you die of cancer, you will experience peace once and for all. Unfortunately, however, your family will carry the weight of your loss for the rest of their life. – Alex/WhatALife.ph


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