Tuesday, October 20, 2009
"So shines a good deed in a weary world." - Willy Wonka
If you're lucky, at some point in the course of your life, you'll find yourself surrounded by a community of friends - people who would go to the wall for you, stay aboard the rocky ride with you until the wheels come off. It may be in high school, college, or later in life, but there'll be a moment when you look around and say, "These are the people who will help define my values, shape who I am, and be there holding my hand through the most violent tempests life sends my way."
I'm grateful to say, I found this community at a point in my life where I could really appreciate it. In 2002, my friend Jessica - a vibrant, beautiful life force who spends so much time giving to others, one wonders how she has time to juggle the dual careers of actress and Pilates instructor - was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer.
You've heard of Stage 4. That's the one where they tell you how much time you have, not what your odds are.
Seven years and over 100 treatments later, Jessica is still here. She's battled the recurrence and spread of cancer many times. She's still here. She's sat in more waiting rooms and taken more medications than most of us could imagine. She's still here. Not only still here, but winning this battle in a way that would restore even a hardened cynic's faith in the human spirit.
About seven years ago, as the story goes, a group of Jessica's girlfriends were sitting around, sharing wine and wisdom, helping Jessica through a rough night of dealing with her diagnosis, and they decided they weren't going to let cancer win. They were going to fight. Together. This is how Girl Fight Club was born.
Over the past seven years, this amazing group of women - and, eventually and inevitably, men - have rallied to support not only Jessica, but they've been there when other friends received bad health news, lost a loved one, or struggled with hardships. They mobilize in a way that would make the Justice League of America feel inadequate. When I see them, I often envision flowing capes and ass-kickin' boots on them.
When a certain Atlanta writer wandered into the woods and took a snake bite to the foot, the GFC went into action. I was receiving texts in ICU, and when I came home, they began a meticulously scheduled brigade of visits, bringing food, coffee, treats for the kids, flowers, cards, and books. Most of all, they listened to me as I shared my story, laughing at all the right parts, showing the kind of compassion that can't be manufactured, and letting me know they were grateful that my toes would live to run another Race for the Cure.
Last night, this amazing group of friends rallied again. Jessica's insurance has reached a point where she now has to pay for the remainder of 2009's treatments, and then her 2010 deductible. The medication/treatments alone are $4500 or so a month. Those cancer cocktails Jessica drinks cost more than ones you'd find in a Buckhead restaurant, to be certain. Action was required, and the Girl Fight Club didn't flinch. A silent auction, raffle, and benefit show by the talented cast and crew of Sketchworks was organized and executed with a sort of flawless grace that only a group of determined friends could muster. The government should take note at how efficiently these ladies made this event happen - they just might learn something.
People who don't even know Jessica donated tickets, trips, spa appointments, services and goods. While I believe part of this can be chalked up to the kindness of strangers, I also believe a part of it is because the Girl Fight Club comes from such a pure place that people are attracted to it. They see the love this group of friends has for one another, and it restores a bit of their faith in humanity. You want to give, not only because it's a good cause, but because it completes a part of you - a part of you that feels a little lost these days amongst the skeptics, cynics, and self-absorbed Me Monkeys that populate our headlines and brush up against us in checkout lines and at traffic lights.
To be a part of something divine, in a world wobbling on its axis, helps us reconnect with whatever we find holy.
To be a part of this inspiring, devoted group of friends has helped me be a better person. There's an artistry to putting love into action, and these people are in the midst of painting their masterpiece.
To be a part of a family of friends like the Girl Fight Club is the fondest wish I could have for you.
I’m a lucky man to count on both hands
The ones I love,.. - "Just Breathe", Pearl Jam