“Do you want me to tell people?” That was the response of one of my friends after I told her I had cancer. In that moment I realized what she was asking, should I keep it a secret, or can I tell people? I responded with, “If there is ever a time I need my friends, it’s now.” With that she went into action.
As I was preparing to battle an enemy inside, she was getting the troops ready to support me. She told all of my friends, and former co-workers. Everyone came together to support me. It wasn’t an easy task, I had moved about three and a half hours north of San Diego to Ventura, but they still came. There were scheduled visits that they worked out amongst themselves. “Who’s got Joy this weekend,” they would ask each other, making sure that I always had people with me to give their support. People drove up to drop off presents before Christmas, they cooked for me, kept me company, talked with my other friends when I was too tired to talk to them, they spent the night with me in the hospital, gave blood, and called with their encouragement.
I had left my job at SeaWorld, San Diego to go to film school in Ventura. I had only been in film school for less than three months before getting sick. My SeaWorld family had organized themselves to send a steady stream of people my way to give their support. What I hadn’t expected was that my short time in film school would be a source of tremendous support too.
I met my friend Kevin at a party for film school. He was showing his reel and I thought it looked really professional, and immediately thought he was an amazing director. We saw one movie together, and then I found out I was sick. We had known each other for a split second in life, but when he found out I was sick, he was there for me. When I had my first surgery, he dropped off a shirt that said “Director” on it for me (although I didn’t know that until some time later). He brought movies for me to watch, and went to every single chemotherapy treatment I had.
During this time I was living with my Aunt, who lived in Ventura. She asked if he would stay with us to help take care of me while I was undergoing treatment. What does Kevin say? Yes. Really and truly, I hadn’t known him long, but somehow this angel was sent into my life during this time with the mission of keeping me alive. He drove me down to Los Angeles for my chemotherapy treatments, blood transfusions, and one late night emergency room trip. He gave blood, and plasma for me, and a bit of his heart and soul. He didn’t have to do this, but he saw the unthinkable happen to someone he knew, and he could not stand by, and do nothing.
One of my favorite moments from being sick was after Kevin, and my friend Brian drove me down to the emergency room in the middle of the night. I had a fever, which means an instant trip to the hospital when you are undergoing chemotherapy, and have no immune system. I was super weak, and ended up getting my first blood transfusion that night along with IV antibiotics. Kevin drove like the wind to get to the hospital, and then dropped off Brian, and I to walk to the ER. We went to our usual entrance instead of the ER drop off, so we had to walk a little bit to get there. My legs were very weak, and buckling underneath me, so Brian put his arm around me, and helped hold me up while we walked to the ER.
The next day I was feeling a little better, but still weak. The two of them were sitting with me in my hospital room. “Ooh, can we play charades? I love charades,” I told them. They were not overjoyed with the idea, but they agreed. Then I laid down in bed, and closed my eyes. “What? Aren’t you going to play,” one of them asked. “No, I just want to listen,” I said with a smile on my face as my two friends started to play charades for their sick friend. This is silly, but with my eyes closed, I was able to guess what it was from my other friend’s guesses. “Titanic!” I said, with my eyes still closed. “What? How did you get that?” It was a silly moment, but one that I loved. They were going to do what it took to keep me alive, and give me moments of happiness. I feel very fortunate to have had these kinds of moments.
When people are diagnosed with something life threatening, I have noticed that some decide to keep it very private. At that point in my life, I let people in, and I am grateful that I did. It was a highlight of my life to receive all of the love, and support that people offered. Most people don’t get to experience that in their lifetime.
Eight years after being diagnosed, Kevin gave a speech at my wedding.
Hello everybody, my name is Kevin, and I’ve been a friend of Joy’s for about eight years now, we went to film school together. In that time period, eight years ago, several people and I, in this room, we undertook a mission to save a girl’s life. And, I think it’s because we were all greedy, and we didn’t want to see, or have this beautiful girl taken away from us. At that point in time there was somebody in her life that wasn’t worthy of her love, her smile, and her warmth. But, to me, that goes to show that there are no coincidences, and that things happen for a reason. Those six months were some of the toughest times for all of us, but it was all worth it to see her standing here today, smiling brighter than I’ve ever seen her smile. I think I can speak for all of us, that were in the fight with you Joy, that we still have your back. And now I extend that to Alex, and welcome him as a friend because it’s nice to see that she has finally found someone who is worthy of her love, smile, and warmth.
I am very fortunate to have had this support. This is just one of so many stories of people supporting me when I was sick. To my family, friends, doctors, nurses, and everyone who was there for me, and as Kevin put it, “undertook a mission to save a girl’s life,” thank you. There is so much more to say, and yet it’s so hard to find the right words. I am eternally grateful, and I am thankful that I was able to accept your help, and love when I needed it the most.