Recently, I saw a friend in line at a local grocery store. Good guy. I said hello and asked what he was up to lately.
“On my way back from the hospital,” he says. “They found another tumor in my head.”
His finger points to an area near his forehead. This will be the third cancer trying to lay claim to his cranium. Subtle marks near his face hint at earlier surgeries.
He tells me the doctors will try something new. Poking a small electrified rod into the new tumor, doctors hope to burn and neutralize the growth. He is excited to try something new.
He smiles, his trademark grin brightly filling the space between us.
“Like I need another hole in the head.”
In life, you can complain about the hand you’ve been dealt or play your hand to the best of your ability. My friend has always been the latter. If sunshine could walk, he would be its mascot and wearing a size 11 shoe.
Truth is, he has always been this way. Before cancer decided to uninvitedly set up residence in his brain, you would’ve sworn each morning his wife would wind up a giant spring located somewhere inside of him. Watching him throughout the day warmly interacting with both friends and strangers inspired others to follow his lead.
And now, in a street battle for his life with an enemy that does not play fair, he continues as if the invasive parasite were simply a small inconvenience, something passing.
But more importantly, he is more likely to ask how you or your family are doing. His heart has always been bigger than his head.
Unchanged is his sincere interest in others and their well-being. When speaking with him, people would swear he makes them feel like the most important person on the planet. And to my friend, that is true. Like a solar panel gaining energy from the sky above, he seems to draw an energy from making others feel welcome and their time valued.
A couple weeks ago, my friend invited friends and strangers to stop at a restaurant and visit. This was not about him, but rather his effort to help others feel more comfortable talking about cancer. Knowing my friend, I know his smile filled the room and his only goal was to help others.
Society likes to eagerly attach glamorous descriptors to people to the point of unintentionally devaluing them from overuse. Hero, champion, courageous. But to me, the highest compliment is to proudly refer to someone as a friend. Doing so demonstrates your admiration and support for them. I am proud of my friend as he’s taught me and others how to face down challenges that would melt most of us like a candle sitting on a Texas windowsill in July.
My friend may not know it, but he is giving strength and confidence to others. And for that, I am proud to call him my friend.