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My Friend, Barb Bristow

What makes a friend a friend? Can you really be friends with someone you’ve never met? Exactly what makes someone qualify as your friend probably differs a little bit for each of us as we all have our own what makes a friend “requirements,” but as for the second question, there’s no doubt in my mind that the answer is an emphatic yes!

One of the best things about writing a blog is that you get to “meet” and interact with lots of people. Some of these people become your friends in every sense of the word. And of course when writing and reading primarily cancer blogs, the downside is that the inevitable happens; people you’ve come to know and care about die. This has happened too many times.

Losing friends is hard.

I didn’t have a chance to meet Barb in person and yes, I regret that. A lot. I’m kicking myself now for not making the three-hour or so drive to meet her. Three hours; come on. Why didn’t I just do it? We talked about it once, but we never actually met up. If only I could change that now… but of course I cannot.

I only knew Barb online, but she was my friend and I didn’t have to meet her face-to-face to know for a fact that she was a wonderfully kind and caring human being. Barb was an encourager and most definitely not a complainer. She never really talked about her pain, discomfort, fears, worries or fatigue, not with me anyway. No, Barb was always one to ask how I was doing.

I learned a few things about Barb during the past two years. First and foremost, her family meant the world to her. She loved her husband dearly and told me once she was sad because she realized that more than likely they wouldn’t get to enjoy the retirement they had been planning. That was about as close as Barb ever came to ‘complaining’. Like me, Barb was a dog lover. She wanted to start journaling. She was an advocate, taking trips here and there to learn more about and to share about metastatic breast cancer. She was an avid Green Bay Packers fan and would kindly needle me about the struggles the Vikings (my team) continually seem to have. When her mother died not that long ago, Barb reached out to me. I shared a blog post with her I had written about losing one’s mother. She was so grateful for that. When I recently had my book published, Barb was one of the very first people to let me know that she was going to buy a copy, read it herself and then donate it to her cancer center. It’s not like Barb needed advice on facing chemo. No, she was trying to show her support for me and my writing and that meant the world to me.

That’s the kind of person/friend Barb was.

I wish I had met Barb in person. I regret not doing so. I have been losing sleep over this regret. I thought we still had more time. We didn’t.

When I came across Barb’s obituary last week online via her local newspaper, I was stopped in my tracks. As I read the words, I was surprised, humbled and honored because Nancy’s Point was mentioned in it. It was almost like a sign to me, a secret message from Barb telling me it was okay. She was okay. It’s hard to explain, but that’s how it felt and I was deeply moved.

Though we did not meet, my friendship with Barb was real.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how many times you and a friend have lunch together, how many text messages you exchange or how many phones calls you make to one another. It doesn’t even matter if you never meet. A friend is a friend and genuine friendship is not based on such things. True friendship is something more. It’s something you cannot see, touch or measure; it’s an intangible thing. But when you experience it with someone, there’s no doubt about it; you know it’s real and you know it’s something very special.

Thank you for being my friend, Barb.

We will not forget.

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Did you know Barb?

How do you feel about online friendships?

What do you look for in a friend?

 

12 thoughts on “My Friend, Barb Bristow

  1. Nancy, as I’ve lived my cancer journey, I’ve made several close and real friends on line. I’ve questioned if these are real friendships, but ultimately, I know they are.

    Barb’s obituary resonated–her quote from your blog and the final line “she did not lose her battle with cancer, she lived graciously and courageously with it until the very end.”

    As always, thank you for writing and helping me navigate this before and after world.

    Her quote from your blog about our cancer truths is so powerful.

    1. Kira, Sometimes we can just tell who our “real” friends are, online or otherwise. Thanks so much for reading and for taking time to comment too. I appreciate your kind words.

  2. So sorry to read about your friend passing away. I’m glad the two of you got to know one another even though you never met. I read her obituary. It must be such an honor to know your blog meant so much to her.

    1. Lindsay, I’m glad Barb and I got to know each other online too. Frankly, I was stunned when I read her obituary and saw Nancy’s Point mentioned. I was honored indeed to know that. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Nancy,

    I’m so sorry that Barb passed away. I think I saw a few tweets from her in #BCSM. I wish I would have known her better. It’s wonderful that you both were such good friends, and thank you for sharing what she was like.

    Don’t blame yourself for not meeting her in person. And, yes, perhaps she did leave a sign telling you that it’s OK.

    Now about online friendships. When I first started my blog, I didn’t care about forming friendships. I just wanted to offer some advice to help people navigate the medical system.

    Little did I know how many wonderful people would come into my life and how many friendships I would form. Little did I know how much I would care about and grieve for those who died.

    And speaking of meet-ups, I’m so glad you and I got to meet in person. It was an amazing experience, and I am so grateful that we did. I would like to meet-up with others, too, but it’s so hard with distance being a problem.

    Thanks for a wonderful tribute to a wonderful woman.

    1. Beth, I had no idea I would form online friendships when I started blogging either. Had no clue what-so-ever. That was a nice surprise. Yes, Barb’s death is another tragic loss. Another family missing a dear loved one from here on out. Barb was only 51. Tragic and so very sad. I am going to miss her…and I do regret not meeting her, but I am glad I knew her online at least. I’m glad you and I got to meet too. That was so much fun! So glad we are friends. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment, Beth.

    1. Jamie, Barb will be missed by many indeed. Thank you so much for taking time to read and comment. It’s nice to hear from one of her in-person friends and neighbors.

  4. Thank you so much for this beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman. I knew Barb. I knew her from the day she joined the Twitter#BCSM group. She and I bonded so well, she was the one who would reach out and ask me why she hasn’t seen me active on Twitter, she kept track of me like I kept track of her. Our dogs looked like siblings, we trade pictures. I considered her one of my best friends, and we never met. Last year around this time she told me she had started hospice. We chatted for a while. I was planting that day, thinking about Barb. I was mad, she had one hope to make it on vacation one more time with their close friends. One year was all she wanted. I planted flowers called Shooting Stars (like Columbines) with some Columbines, thinking of how to remember Barb. A meteor shower was happening and I thought I’ll look for a s hooting star, whenever I see a shooting star I’ll think of Barb. I got done. DM’ed Barb and told her I would think of her whenever I saw a shooting star. Her last DM to me was a few days later: I’d be honored to be your shooting star. So, the stories not over. Starting about a week later, those plants started blooming like crazy. All summer long I walked on to my porch and saw my Beautiful red Shooting Stars, everyday and everyday I thought about Barb. I was thinking about the celestial phenomenon of shooting stars when I vowed to think of Barb, the flowers though I was talking about them. They made sure I thought about her everyday of her last summer, I replanted them in my yard at the end of last season and they are spectacular already this summer! It’s such a happy reminder of someone I miss so much.

    1. Jane, Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words. I miss her. I love that you planted those Shooting Star flowers as one way to remember Barb. How lovely and yes, what a happy memory. Enjoy those blooms and thanks again for reading.

  5. Hard to lose friends to cancer…why I can’t do support groups for mets patients any more … Too many losses, too many funerals. It can be overwhelming to work or advocate in this community…thank you for what you do Nancy!

    1. Gail, It can be over-whelming at times, so it’s understandable you can’t do support groups for mets patients any more. The losses are tough to take. Thank you for reading and for the kind words.

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