When you were growing up, did you ever have that person that you weren’t allowed to hang out with? One of mine was Erica. She was what I considered one of the “cool kids” and despite my desire to be her sidekick, my mom had other plans for me. That plan was for me to not associate with her because she was “bad”- whatever that means when you’re 14. Thankfully for my mom we were total opposites that ran in different circles, so I actually never really had plans to hang out with her, I just longed from afar. She was one of those badass girls that shined with confidence and would kick your ass in a heartbeat if you looked at her wrong. She wasn’t afraid to get into a fight with someone that earned it and apparently, the Suz didn’t want me fighting (or well, let’s be real, getting my ass kicked for my smart mouth).
At the same time she was off kicking ass and taking names, I was dating this older boy. We will call him B. B came into my life early in high school and we were super smitten. While ultimately we broke up (shocker) we remained friends and still tried to connect on holidays or when he was in town. And then I got the news- B had gotten married. And to that bitch ERICA. I don’t know if it was the fact that she was too cool for me in high school or jealousy over B, but I did not like what I was hearing. So, with that I started calling him on Christmas and because we were long time friends, he’d answer- and stop what he was doing with his new wife to talk to me- and that made me feel like a rockstar while subsequently pissing her off.
B and I lost touch over the next few years but made our way back to each other in our mid-20’s. Erica and I started chatting through a mutual friend and I realized that we actually had a lot in common so we decided the three of us should go out to a bar one night and all be damned if Erica and I did not end up becoming best friends y’all. And instantly. She was, and is, anything you could ever want or need in a best friend. She loves wine & sushi, she laughs at the dumbest shit & laughs at herself, she ALWAYS has your back and will take down any guys that hurt you, even if it means making a redhead cry or chasing down dates in parking lots. All of the things I was jealous of or hated about her in high school were all of the things I loved about this girl now. We basically became inseparable me and her. Eventually, B was out of the picture and while she was dealing with all of that drama, a new chapter of her life started.
At 31 years old, Erica was diagnosed with Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Dumbed down, girlfriend had breast cancer. FREAKING BREAST CANCER. At age 31. MY BEST FRIEND.
Everyone thinks they are invincible, or they have that “eh, that’ll never happen to me” attitude, which is what I always had, until that moment. How was it possible that someone so young and so close to me was this sick? Over the next few months, she had a bilateral mastectomy and underwent 6 brutal months of “the red devil” chemo. Nurses had to wear hazmat suits to administer that shit, that is how scary and serious it was. In the next 6 months after that, she went through more rounds of chemo and thankfully survived. I honestly don’t know what the hell we would have done if she didn’t. I try not to think about that, like EVER. But can we just take a second and appreciate how freaking amazing this girl is? She had 3 young boys, was going through a separation, was going through chemo and dealing with cancer all while juggling a job she loved and not losing her mind. Shit, I can barely handle having a headache and getting up to take the dog to daycare and here she is hitting the ground running every morning. She’s one of those people that fits the saying “when her feet hit the ground, the devil thinks ‘oh shit, she’s awake’.”
My best friend survived cancer. She is surviving balancing a household and cooking dinners and rushing kids to sports and tackling algebra homework and maintaining a relationship and damn, just life in general. Thankfully, she now has an AWESOME man by her side that we all just totally adore. Even the Suz is a big fan and is always gushing over how she wants to hug him. But through the hard times, Erica never lost hope. She never lost that urge to fight, just now instead of fighting some asshole in high school or some guy that hurt me, she was fighting her own battle. Erica has courage, confidence and just a whole new outlook on life. If she was ever scared or fearful, you’d have never known it. I remember seeing photos of her hanging at chemo and I’d think- should someone with cancer look this happy?
Sure, she lost her hair- but she was confident in rocking that short hair and then shaved head and now her hair is growing back with some natural beach waves, which don’t even get me started on how jealous we all are of that phenomenon. People pay a lot of money to have their hair look like hers, and hers is just natural. Can you feel the jealousy in my veins? Her smile and laughter is contagious. She glows when she smiles, because she knows that despite all of the shit life threw at her, she is a damn survivor. Her story and struggles inspire me. Her bravery makes me feel brave. Any obstacle or struggle she faces, she knows that it could be a lot worse, so she just takes it with a grain of salt. You can just tell how more more she values life and love and happiness now. I mean, you literally cannot look at these before and after photos and tell me you don’t see the pure happiness radiating off this chick. Sure, she was sexy before, but check out that SHINE y’all. The smile says it all.
She is a true inspiration to so many people, but most of all, she is my sister by choice. My very best friend. My partner in so so SO many crimes, my ride or die. She’s my person, and I love her and just want her to know how amazing and strong and courageous and beautiful inside and out she is. If I fall, she gets on the ground with me and we laugh till we cry. When I want to quit, she tells me to pull my shit together. She loves me when I don’t love myself and I couldn’t be more blessed and thankful for this girl right here.
I will say, she did come out of it with new perky boobs, which she always wanted anyways after having 3 kiddos ‘ruin’ her existing ones, so we always joke that this was the silver lining. And let me tell you, the boobies are nice. She’ll probably show you if you ask her nicely.