What do you say when your best friend has cancer?

My bf Nina is visiting me. I just got back from chemo. It’s Sunday. It’s raining. We’re both 17 years old. We’re drinking tea. Nina is telling me about her life: about boys and high school and parties. I’m listening, swallowing every word. I don’t have much to tell. My life is all about chemo and Ewing’s sarcoma.

“I’m glad you’ve got cancer,” Nina says all of the sudden.


I look at her, surprised. Did she really just say that? I’m not sure if I should get angry or sad.

“I’m glad you’ve got cancer,” she repeats. “I don’t think any of the rest of us girls would be strong enough to go through the hell you’re experiencing right now.”

I’m silent. Wow. She did really just say that!


Stronger than your toughest challenge

Nina is a smart girl. After high school she studied Organizational Psychology and made a career out of analyzing how people behave in professional contexts. I admire her knowledge and people skills, and I often ask her for advice. But that rainy Sunday 15 years ago she was wrong.

I don’t believe that I was the only one in our group of friends who was strong enough to win the battle against cancer. I think a lot of us are stronger than we believe we are. We think we know what we are capable of achieving, but that’s based on our previously accomplishments. If you have climbed a mountain, you know you are capable of doing so. If you have run a marathon, you know you are capable of doing so. But what do you do the first time you climb or run?

We must be stronger than our toughest challenge.


Cheering like a best friend

Before cancer I never faced real danger. Like many other people, I have experienced good things and bad things, but up until cancer I had never been in a life threatning situation before. In order to survive Ewing’s sarcoma I had to believe that I was capable of doing it. I had to find some extra inner strength, like a stock of willpower I had never used before.

That rainy Sunday 16 years ago Nina saw in me a girl who wanted to live. But she forgot to look at herself. As my bf she was a big part of it all. Together with the rest of my friends and family, it was Nina who mobilized the willpower in me. She was like the cheerleader who never stopped cheering.

Because my bf never stoppede believing in me, I never stopped believing in me either. That gave me willpower enough to fight and win. That gave me the willpower I needed.

Willpower can’t cure cancer. But it got me through the chemo that cured me.

And that’s how you talk about cancer with your bf. Despite age. Despite diagnosis. You cheer, you stay honest and you come to visit on the rainy days!