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Opinion: Column: What Are Friends For (Not a Question)
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Opinion: Column: What Are Friends For (Not a Question)

Other than my wife, Dina, and my brother, Richard, there are few people with whom I regularly discuss – in more excruciating detail than weekly I do so with you, the world in which yours truly, a non-small cell lung cancer, stage IV "diagnossee" inhabits.

It just so happens that in this past week, I interacted with three of the other most main confidants, a rarity: my oldest, best friend from high school, Cary, with whom I spoke on the phone for nearly an hour (he lives in Massachusetts), a bi-weekly occurrence generally; my oldest, best friend from college, Rita, who I finally met for lunch (even though she lives in Alexandria and has been local ever since college), a much rarer occurrence (though we email regularly), a lunch that lasted four hours; and Veronica, my hair stylist, who I see every eight to 12 weeks – as I have for almost 20 years, whether I need to or not. (That's a joke. I have a full head of hair so needing a haircut is never the question, needing it is the answer.)

Over these many years, these three have heard everything I have to say; good, bad or indifferent, and yet despite having heard it all, still remain interested in hearing more and judging less. Together, we share stories and confidences, laughter and sorrow. Their support and encouragement has been above and beyond the call of duty.

Interacting with all three in the course of one night and two days reminded me of the actor George Peppard because this is my "A" Team." When I want to, they're who I go to, whenever the need arises or when the opportunity presents itself. And though they may not solve every problem, listening to as many of them as they have certainly has provided the kind of comfort and joy that has helped sustain me through thick and thin (not talking about my weight) and most importantly, during the past nine-plus years as a cancer survivor. There's not a "B.A." (bad attitude) among them, though they all wear jewelry.

I hope I'm not speaking out of turn here but, there are some subjects which are best left for friends – and the professionals, more so than family. Some topics which might betray a confidence or touch a nerve that when spoken of aloud might exacerbate a familial situation rarely discussed.

Sometimes, sorting through these pros and cons with friends, who likely suffer no consequences in the outcome, might present options that otherwise might not be heard. From the mouths of babes, so to speak. A fresh, unbiased perspective can be a welcome addition to any discussion of facts, especially when feelings are involved; and as often concerns family-oriented subjects, feelings are most definitely involved.

Not that there aren't feelings involved with friends; of course there are, it's more that old friends knew you when and know you now, and the passage of that much time, separate and apart from family, can often enlighten and inspire. Who wouldn't benefit from friends who've been there and seen you do that?

It's particularly important to have independent forces in your corner because like so many cancer patients, myself included, occasionally you exhibit signs of "chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment," otherwise known as "chemo brain," a side effect/condition of treatment which can blur a memory or two – or more. You may not even realize it when it disappears, and you may need someone to remind you of it. Hopefully it's not a memory gone forever, but just one gone until a friend helps retrieve it for you. And who better to retrieve these foggy memories than friends you've known for 49, 45 and 20 years, respectively?

And I do respect them, and appreciate them, and cherish them, as they are three of my pillars. Without them, the foundation of who I am and what I know, would likely crumble.

Kenny Lourie is an Advertising Representative for The Potomac Almanac & The Connection Newspapers.