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  • Writer's pictureHolly Tomlin

Cancer..from a long distance friend's perspective...

It was a typical Thursday morning in my house. I was scrambling to get my kids out the door to summer camp. We were rushed and running late as usual. For some reason, I stopped to look at my phone and I saw it. A text that read "It's cancer. Please pray." I literally sat down right where I was in my house. My legs felt weak. My hands felt numb. I don't even remember what I texted back. I know I said I would pray and I did. I have not stopped since. I live in California. I moved here in 2009 with my husband, Rob. Despite the distance, Holly and I are as close as ever. Maybe even closer. In the days after Holly was diagnosed, a sort of slide show of her and I played in my mind. Memories flooded in as I tried to process the reality of what was going on with my best friend, my soul sister.  I remember the exact moment Holly and I met. She had started her orientation as a nurse in the pediatric ICU at CMC three months before me. She was- and still is- sharp, intelligent, and on top of her game. Fast forward a year later and our friendship started to grow. I remember her planning her wedding and the day she married Cory. I remember how gorgeous she looked in all her pictures on her honeymoon to Hawaii. I remember sitting by the pool in Georgia at my parents' home trying to escape the reality going on inside and getting a phone call from Holly. She knew my dad was days away from dying. She called to check on me and tell me that she was praying. Very few friends reach out in those dark times, but Holly did. I will talk more about this later. I remember where I was sitting when I heard she was pregnant with Emma. I remember planning her shower. I remember being in graduate school together and practicing assessments on each other. We studied for hours together. We took care of so many sick patients together. We learned together, laughed together, and cried together. We grew up as nurses together. Holly celebrated with me as I got engaged to Rob, planned my wedding shower, and danced at my reception. I remember when she learned she was pregnant with Will and the days after his birth. All these memories and a million more are so crystal clear in my head. We have laughed so hard we cried, talked each other through unbearable times, cried together, prayed together.  This is my Holly. So, no. She cannot have cancer It's surreal. So surreal. You see, God made Holly and I from the same cloth. We are two peas in a pod. We get each other in ways no one else can. I have no doubt God crossed our paths on purpose. We are your lovable hypochondriac friends :-) If worrying earned money, Holly and I could buy an island. We giggle together at how ridiculous our fears can be. We encourage each other to pray and stay off google :-) If soul mates come in the form of friends, Holly would be one of mine.   Holly came into my life when I was the furthest away from God I have ever been. I was angry with God. Cancer had taken my dad. I always looked at Holly- and still do- in awe of her faith. How could she just know? How could she believe so easily? Despite my weakness in faith, Holly never hesitated to share hers. She prayed when I couldn't. She stood up for me before God when it was impossible for me to do it.  Then, in 2012, in the face of another loss, Jesus captured my heart. I fell in love with Him all over again. Holly was there to encourage me, to buy me my first Bible in adulthood, to pray over me. Holly is more than my friend, she was the link to my faith, my patient companion, my mentor. She would tell you that she couldn't be a mentor, but trust me my friends, she is.  So, here we are today. In this time. Trying to find our way through the valley. I, again, stand in awe of Holly's faith. Where I turned away from God in my darkest time all those years ago, Holly has clung onto Him. She is saying, with all her heart, "Yes, Jesus. Anything for You." We are on sacred ground where Holly is concerned, in the presence of the greatness God intended. We are all so lucky to know Holly and to love her.  So, how do we help her? Aly gave such beautiful ideas of how to help, and I want to share with you on how to help from a distance. First, this is NOT about you. It is NOT about how far you are away from her. It is about HOLLY or any loved one you know that you are trying to show love from a distance as they battle whatever they are going through. Ask.. How can I pray for you? Ask for very specific prayer requests. Dedicate time to pray over your loved one. Don't just say you will.  How can I be the best friend to you? This will look different for everyone. We all have our own love language. Learn to speak theirs.  How can I help? Again, ask for very specific requests. If they won't give you any, get creative. Can you call the water company and pay a bill? Can you hire a cleaning service to clean the house? Can you donate airline miles to get loved ones in to see them? Can you hire a gardener to mow the lawn? If they say nothing, do it anyway. Give them ideas. Asking for help is hard, but it is always appreciated.  Do.. The work. They have so much on their plate. Plan the trip to see them. Give them the option to pick dates, but if they are not sure or overwhelmed, just GO. Don't plan to stay with them. Rent a car. Be there for THEM. Don't make them lift a finger or worry about a single detail. Send cards, random things. Let them know you are thinking of them.  Talk to them like a normal personHolly is not cancer. She has cancer. She is still a mom, wife, and friend. Don't walk on eggshells or stop sharing your life with her. She loves you and that will only make her feel more sick and disconnected. Call. Just call. She may not answer. Call anyway. Holly did this for me. Took five minutes of her day to make me feel loved for a week. Call.  Don't.. Pull away. If you don't know what to say or you cannot relate, just say that. Say you don't know what to say. Say you will pray. That you will listen and do anything you can to help. Tell her it could be worse. Of course it can. Trust me, Holly knows. She has dedicated her life to sick children. But this is her truth right now. Be sure not to belittle any one's struggle. I hope that this is helpful in any way. Like I said before, I am so honored to be in Holly's life and to be her friend. I am confident we will share a million more memories and that God will use her journey with cancer to brighten the world.  All my love, Callie

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