This is a guest post by Serena Wills, who has also written about being a caregiver for her mother with Stage IV ovarian cancer. Read that post here, or download our infographic on how not to talk to people with cancer.
This past month was Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and I wanted to write a special post about a beautiful friend with ovarian cancer that I met in the last year. In April 2018, I went to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition Conference in New York City and met an array of amazing and wonderful people. Everyone from vendors, survivors, workshop presenters, caregivers, staff from the national office: you name it and I met them. One special friend I met had had ovarian cancer and was in remission. She said that one doctor had given her a poor prognosis and told her she had a short life expectancy since she had stage IV. But she believed that she would beat and defeat it, and she did.
When I met Tara Lessard, we instantly connected. I was selling my poetry books and shared my story, and it touched her so much. She went in her bag and handed me these “cocoa fat bombs” that were absolutely delicious! They met all of my dietary restrictions, which was huge for me. We ended up at the food truck across the street together, chopping it up over Halal food, and the rest was history.
Since then, we've done YouTube live chats together, making people more aware about ovarian cancer, sharing what it’s like to go from patient to survivor, and sharing what it’s like to be a caregiver to your own mother. We have been in touch throughout the months and became penpals, sending notes and letters—a lost art indeed! When Tara told me that she was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer, my heart dropped. I cried at first because I didn't want this happening to her again, but her vibrant spirit picked me up. I made a promise to see her, and we met up again in Philadelphia, spending a lot of great time together. The first item on the agenda was eating, because we’re both food-lovers, and we caught up and enjoyed each other's company. It was also her first time meeting my son, and that meant the world to me.
To me, our friendship is like the sunflowers Tara loves so much: it keeps growing, into this beautiful stalk of a bright and vibrant bloom that then sheds its seeds so other sunflowers can blossom. My son loves her; he talks about her all the time as the lady who made him great spinach and bacon when we visited her house (my son is a foodie too!) and gave him the coolest handheld piggy bank.
Some people don't know how to be friends to others who have illnesses. My only advice is that at the end of the day we're all human, despite what is going on in our lives. Don't look at the person as their illness or symptoms. Love them for the person that they are: their spirit and soul.
Tara continues to spread awareness about ovarian cancer to the world through discussions, news interviews, volunteering and live talks online. I look at her bright and shining spirit, and I'm in awe. When I imagine her, I see my foodie friend who loves writing, poetry, and photography and enjoys the arts. I see a sincere, beautiful spirit. She loves all of her family and friends inside and out, and is the epitome of what a true friend looks like. I can't wait to break bread with her again, create art, and kick it like two old friends; I feel like I've known her my whole life—she's that kind of kindred spirit.
I pray that this post can impact and help someone reflect on a friendship that they have with someone who has an illness or has experienced significant challenges in their life. Here's a link from one of our YouTube chats on the Dr. Vibe show about a year ago. (We also talk about how we met over fat bombs!)
In the words of Mr. Spock: live long and prosper, Tara!