The Awesome Threesome

Each time I step out of the shower and collect the hair around the drain to throw away, I whisper a prayer of thanksgiving. The memories of bald days continues to fade; replaced now with gratitude for eyebrows and long hair, and even the return of straight hair. What doesn’t fade and is lodged deep in my heart because it was soul-altering are the faces of those who came alongside to help and encourage me and my family all throughout the cancer journey.

I refer often to “the Awesome Threesome” in my blog posts and CaringBridge posts, but haven’t taken time to properly introduce you to them. They, of course, will be highlighted in Chapter One of the someday book.

After the experience in the food court I found myself two months later at that exact crossroad of deciding if I was going to try to muster up self-sufficient strength and go all Christian Rambo “just me and Jesus” or actually take the braver route to open my heart and let people into my fear and process. Transparency is the willingness to share about difficulties one has undergone after the fact. Vulnerability is sharing difficulties raw, in real-time, without the “lesson learned” end of the story. Transparency is something I am comfortable with. Mostly. Vulnerability? Not so much.

Darrin would be strong for me. I was confident that he would drop everything, but I also knew that he wouldn’t be able to sustain such a long medical battle alone. So I made a choice to bring people in.

I remember typing out an email from my bed Friday afternoon after the mammogram turned ultra sound turned core biopsy. The bandages from the core biopsy wrapped all the way around me several times, making it difficult to breathe deep. But in hind sight I wonder if it was the fear of the unknown and the fear of rejection causing me to breathe shallow.

On the “To:” line I typed in names of a handful of my present-day girlfriends. I chose them based on who I would ask to be my bridesmaids if I had to get married to Darrin all over again. I shared in the email about how they made the bridesmaid selection. I shared about the horrible events of the day. I shared how I needed prayer while I waited for the biopsy results. Cynci lived several states away, Lisa lived an hours drive away. Each held a place in my heart and most over two decades of friendship. Three of those bridesmaid-category friends lived within ten minutes of me. I knew I needed time to talk “in human” (a phrase Julia used when she was a preschooler in place of “in person”–her heart-warming phrase has me still using it to this day). So following the email I texted them to see if they would be willing to meet me at “my Starbucks”–the one with the fireplace around the corner from our house the next day.

They said “yes.”

And it still brings grateful tears to my eyes to think about the significance of their “yes.”

We sat sipping coffee and tea out of those Christmas themed red Starbucks paper cups. I shared my struggle with asking for help and how difficult it was to open up and bring people in, but how I needed their friendship and support regardless of the biopsy result. I shared that they were friends who I trusted with the deepest parts of me. I knew they wouldn’t try to talk me out of how I felt or carelessly quote Bible verses or try to hyper-spirtualize the situation. They knew how to sit with me in my raw emotions.

No fixing.

No advice giving.

They each had spiritual maturity and depth of character and years of ministry experience and walked through personal heartache. They were safe. I trusted them and they trusted me. They wouldn’t judge me if I questioned God or cussed in anger or cried about losing my hair.

As I shared they held my hands. At different points their eyes filled with tears. We went back to Debbie’s house to pray.

And they became from that day forward The Awesome Threesome or A3 or any number of combinations of Awesome and Three and Wonderful.

They would be the ones to come back with Darrin to pray and see me before I was wheeled off to surgery. Both times. They would watch Jesslyn shave my head in our living room. They would be the ones standing in the kitchen banging on pots and pans like Taiko Drums when I returned home from my last round of chemo. They would meet with me week after week to pray. They joined me and Audrey on the hunt for a decent wig. They would be the ones in the waiting room after my last radiation zap. I could go on and on with more. They were, are and always will be the Awesome Threesome.

In the picture below from left to right: Kelly, Leila, me and Debbie.

Kelly: college friend from CU Boulder, faithful, gifted teacher, loyal, generous, “everything I’m not:”smart, kind, patient, financial wizard, humble, prepared, steadfast, gracious, with off the charts integrity. We are fellow “desperate memories” sometimes, ok, rare to barely ever scrapbookers and Annual Thanksgiving party planning hostesses. We’ve been at it so long we can almost plan it with our eyes closed. Our kids have grown up together like cousins. Kelly emailed me a meds chart every chemo round so I could keep track of the nine different pills I was taking. Significant memory: flipping through TV channels after Round Four of chemo awfulness. No words, just sitting together, watching bits of whatever weird shows we happened on. Me: bald, experiencing hot flashes from chemopause and feeling yucky, very yucky. Kelly: faithful, loving me by her presence.

Leila: we first meet before either of us were married, wise, generous, FUN, loyal, passionate, thoughtful, “everything I’m not:” kind, expert in color, beauty, textures, hair, interior decorating, fashion, deep, amazing question asker, courageous, creative. We are fellow Talbot Seminary someday Masters Degree recipients, (though she is MUCH farther along). Her sons were both at one time planning to marry Julia (when they were five and six years old). Again, our kids have grown up together like cousins. Leila was the communication hub especially with our church family. She set up the CaringBridge site and was the head go-to woman. Significant memory: we watched a live season recap performance from the show “So You Think You Can Dance” highlight was the powerful dance about breast cancer. No, I’d have to say it was the very, very, VERY slow walk after surgery where we had to stop every few houses to rest. Me: weak, so very weak. Leila: loving me by being with me, waiting, walking.

Debbie: truth be told, Debbie’s incredible reputation of being a godly woman, mom, wife, leader preceded her arrival from Colorado to California. I was honored that she would even remember my name. Isn’t God so kind to allow me to eventually be counted as one of her friends! loyal, thoughtful, honest, discerning, gifted leader-teacher-listener, authentic, generous, wise, “everything I’m not:” listener, calm, connection maker, grief counselor, sincere, refined, organized, intelligent, skilled conflict resolver, brave. We are fellow half marathon walker medal recipients (though I don’t think either of us are going to do anything like that anytime soon). It was from our training through the neighborhood for the half marathon that “Debbie’s course” and the imagery of cancer treatment came about. Debbie coordinated meals for our family throughout treatment. Almost an entire calendar year of meals. Whoa. Significant memory: such a natural leader, from the very first meeting, Debbie brought calm, order and a plan to the madness. Me: frightened, unsure Debbie: loving me through her voice, her confident knowing, experience and graciousness.

I hope you are able to see how I’m not exaggerating when I call them the Awesome Threesome.

This post is dedicated to the Awesome Threesome on our 3 year anniversary from that first Starbucks meeting on December 20th. Not enough words or space to express my love and gratitude for you. Lifelong friends. 

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4 thoughts on “The Awesome Threesome

    • Stacie, you and I could start a Debbie fan club! :) Yes, my gratitude for each of them continues to grow. God was and is exceedingly generous in blessing me with such incredible women. I’m glad to have met you through Debbie!!

  1. Vivian,
    I stumbled upon your blog via a “tweet” of your definitions of transparency and vulnerability (I think it was via Judy Douglass…not sure). Great observations. I’m much the same way….fine with transparency…not so crazy about vulnerability…it makes me feel…well…vulnerable.

    I’ve been blogging alot lately about the relationship between vulnerability and leadership as well as vulnerability and public speaking.

    Thanks for this.

    Tell Darrin hi for me.

    • Brian, thank you so much for taking time to read and respond! Love how social networking works with all the various forms via fb, twitter, etc.! :) I will look forward to checking out your blog and your insights about vulnerability, leadership and public speaking. All three are areas of interest to me! I’ll pass on your greeting to Darrin! Have a wonderful Christmas!

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