My friend Liana

When I was going through chemotherapy, I always wore a baseball cap to cover my bald head. Everyday I'd walk around with a hat to match my shirt. If I wore a red shirt, Iíd wear a red hat. If I wore a powder blue shirt, Iíd wear a powder blue hat. I might have been a bald person, but I certainly wasnít about to be an unfashionably sensible bald person. I saved my wig for dressier occasions when I couldn't wear baseball hats.

Even when my hair began growing back and I had a couple of inches sprouting from my head, I just couldnít give up the hats. It was at the point where it almost looked ridiculous for me to wear one all the time because I had a full head of hair. But I couldnít help myself from being too self-conscious to go without them.

It wasnít until the day my friend Liana, whom I met through my sister Margaret, quickly changed my mind. Liana had worked with Margaret as a teacher. After hearing about me and being a breast cancer survivor herself, Liana asked if she could call to offer any help or support I could use.

The first time I spoke to her I immediately knew what a special person she was. I quickly grew to learn how she was one of the nicest people in the world youíd ever meet. So kind, caring, thoughtful and completely unselfish. I truly believe that people come into our lives for a reason. And whether we get to share 1 year with them or 50, their time in our life serves a purpose.

Liana was just about finishing up her treatments when I had just started mine. Throughout that time, she continued calling me to see how I was doing and inspire me with all the love and strength she had. Sheíd always say to me, "Look Mary, how well Iím doing. Youíre going to be just fine too! Youíll make it through just like I did." Such encouraging words from such a remarkable person. At times when I felt like I wanted to give up, Iíd get a call from Liana.

It wasnít long before she began telling me she loved me before hanging up the phone. She had all the love in the world to share, and wasnít ashamed to show it. I guess she knew all along what was truly important in life. To share your feelings with the ones you love because you can never tell someone often enough how much you care about them.

Unfortunately by the end of the year as my treatments continued, Liana found out that her cancer had returned.

While speaking to her on the phone one day she began implying to me that she felt she had enough, and now wanted to give up. She said she didnít think she could take it anymore.

We ended up making a pact over the phone that day. "If I promise you I wonít give up" she said, "Will you promise me youíll stop wearing a hat and show off that hair and face of yours?" "How could I possibly say no to that?" I thought. "You have yourself a deal Liana!" I said. "But remember, you canít give up. Okay?"

I was so upset when I hung the phone up. And even though I knew she had no way of knowing whether or not I wore my hat, I left the house without it, embarrassed of my hair but proud of my friend. My crooked, lopsided, unshaped hair-do was a huge statement. It didnít mean I looked ugly, it meant that my friend wasnít giving up.

Over the next few weeks Liana continued becoming more ill and eventually was admitted into the hospital. From her hospital bed she called to tell me how much she loved me and to thank me for everything I did.

But thank me? It shouldnít have been her calling me. It should have been me calling to thank her for the nineteen months of precious friendship she had so graciously and generously given to me. Itís amazing how someone can become a part of your life for such a short period of time and have such a tremendous impact on it. She helped walk me through the roughest time in my life. And showed me what it truly means to be courageous.

I continued keeping the promise I made to her everyday by walking past that pile of hatís in my room and leaving them behind where they belonged. Liana taught me how I now had something much more precious than a pretty haircut. I had my life.

Not only did she show me how to be proud of what I have, but she also showed me how a person can be their bravest when at their sickest. Not once did she complain to me about how much pain she was in or how scared she was. Even when I went to visit her in the hospital.

I remember walking in the room and her patting the bed beside her as if gesturing for me to come sit down next to her. Slowly, I walked over and sat down. We sat there for a while just talking. My hair looked horrible and was sticking out all over the place. But with a big smile on, Liana ever so gently ran her hand across it and told me how proud she was of me.

Before I left, I placed a pillow beneath her head and helped tuck her into bed. I told her I loved her as I gave her a kiss. For some reason, I hesitated before leaving and stopped at the doorway. I turned back around as our eyes met and locked. I lifted my hand up and waved goodbye. That was the last time I saw her alive.

The following week I found out that Liana had lost her battle. I knew she bravely fought to keep her promise and not give up. And I still could not have been anymore proud of her than what I was. She taught me so much and gave me a tremendous amount of strength during our short-lived friendship. I'm now done with my chemo and haven't worn any of my hats since.

So now, sometimes when I walk outside I look up into the sky and brush my hand across my head. "See Liana?" I say. "I kept my promise. And Iím not giving up either."

Shown above is a picture of Liana and her husband Roger at my engagment party. Just two and a half months before she passed away. Roger is just as much of a special person as Liana.

Story By: Mary





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