It was a bright, sunshine-filled July day in the city of Vancouver. The city was looking shinier than normal and it seemed that everybody had an extra spring in their step. I was feeling pretty cheery due to the great city vibe, despite the task I was about to undertake.
My friend Sara was on the tail-end of her journey with cancer and I was heading to her condo to be a witness for her will. Sitting on the bed with her, waiting for the paperwork to be organized, I decided to mention what a gorgeous day it was outside. That inane comment has haunted me since the moment it escaped my lips. My beautiful, 26 year old friend was dying and trying to organize her last will and testament and I opted to discuss the weather. Sara simply sat in silence. I learned then, that sometimes it’s not necessary to fill the space with words. Sometimes just being there is support enough.
I met Sara when we were studying acting at the University of Victoria. Sara was incredibly intelligent, witty, goofy and never ‘minced’ her words. I learned a lot from her as an actor and as a friend. Funnily enough our friendship grew while she was battling cancer.
When Sara was undergoing treatment for her cancer, she mentioned she hated it when people told her she was “brave”. She didn’t feel brave; she felt differently each day and often being brave was the furthest thing from her mind. She sometimes wanted people to say “you know what, what you’re going through is sh**ty.” I never forgot that. I tried to use that more honest approach to communicating with her as much as I could.
We shared a similar sense of humour. One of the things I am most proud of about my time with Sara was being able to make her laugh. When she laughed, it came from her core and filled a room with light. One day, after her cancer had returned, I cracked a risky joke (I wasn’t sure if my timing was right). The risk paid off because we laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes. That day I said the right things to her. That day I was the right person to be there with her. Luckily I had more of those days with her than not.
It was a privilege for me to be included in Sara’s cancer journey and sometimes, quite honestly, I didn’t know what to say. What do you say to a young woman that is not going to recover? I wish I had told her that she would make an impact with her short life. I wish I had revealed how much her life had touched my heart. In my defence, I didn’t know these truths profoundly until after her death but it doesn’t stop me from wishing I had said them.
Being there, having a sense of humour and being honest were the keys for me to successfully accompany Sara on her cancer challenge. Being braver in my emotions towards Sara may have also strengthened the journey. What I do know is no one gets it right. It is a bumpy ride and if you communicate regularly and with truth, it will make things easier.
Megan Fox is an actor, teacher and voice-over artist. She is a failed basketball player, seamstress and musician. Her current favourite activity is keeping up with her 3 year old son at the playground.