"This will be hard to put into words, but I will try.
Donna and I were great friends in our younger day. Somewhere along the line, we lost touch. Years went by, and often I would wonder how she was doing, but as the busy world went by, and I dove into my own life and difficulties, I didn't make the effort to seek her out to find out how she was. Then, the feared "Class Reunion". Donna and I touched base, and made sure that each other would be there and we would spend some time together. Since then, we have spent time together, remembering how important our friendship is, and catching up on all aspects.
My 50th birthday was approaching, and my life was in a bit of turmoil. A 50th party was being given to me at my sister's, and Donna was going to be there, along with some other dear friends. I was excited to see them all. During the party, I knew something was going on, but Donna, in "Donna Style", tried to hide it and make sure my birthday was fun for me. She tried to explain it away with some reason, but I knew something was wrong. After returning home, she called me to tell me she had cancer. The first thing that came to my mind was what an idiot I was to wait so long to get our friendship back, and then how strong Donna was to call me and tell me, instead of emailing or texting (as we all tend to do now in this impersonal world). We cried a few tears, and then decided that she was too damn strong and stubborn to give in to any of this.
Now, to the reason I was asked to write this. Nobody can say that this has affected them as much as Donna herself, but I would say this experience has changed how I look at and feel about things, a lot. It isn't all the "life is short - do what makes you happy" thing, although that is a part of it. The main way this affected me was it awakened all my emotions. In having some major disappointments in my life, I had kindof put a smile on my face and was just going through the motions. Do it, take it, let it happen, just smile and make people believe you are strong. Donna gave me, and others, the privilege of going through this with her. I have learned so much from her. I have learned the things she wanted to teach me about tanning and cancer, but she has taught and shown me so much more than she can know. I know it's OK to cry for myself and for someone else, and it's not a sign of weakness. It's alright to be angry, but you have to direct it to do good things. She has reminded me that a real friendship never ends, but sometimes just takes a time out, but that person is always in your heart. This experience also reminded me that every day IS a gift. It may be a gift you didn't ask for, but it is a gift none-the-less. To abuse it, is an insult to those who are working and trying so hard to get another "gift". This might all sound sappy, but with every tear I have shed for Donna, with every prayer I have said for her, with every sleepless night I have spent afraid for her and her family; for myself because-it CAN happen to me, I have been thankful and amazed at how I have grown from all of this. It isn't easy to face all your emotions, and unfortunately Donna has been forced to, and in that, she has allowed me to. Now, to put it into perspective, good things did come from bad, but it would be a better world if the roller coaster wasn't ridden to get to this point. I am not going to say, as thankful as I am, that it has been easy."