Striving and Thriving with a little help from Good Friends!

Christine Handy
Guest Blogger and Podcast Guest

Walk Beside Me is a fictional depiction of the friendships that carried me through my health battles over the past ten years. It is my story, but it is really the story of my friends, an amazing group of women who didn’t just enrich my life—they saved it.

We all struggle with health issues from time to time, and when mine began a decade ago, I assumed they would be just that: brief ripples in the calm, cool ocean of my life. Little did I know what was in store for me. Since June 06, 2006, I’ve had a colon resection, a blog clot, two broken feet, a fused arm, and last but certainly not least, breast cancer. In the last five years I have had 28 rounds of chemotherapy, 17 non-elective surgeries, a port, a pic line, and multiple drains hanging from my body.

I don’t tell you this to ask for your pity, only to give you a sense of what my friends had to endure and carry me through. My friendships started many years ago, long before my heath battles. I believe that God ordained these friendships and set them up in preparation for what was to come.

The title of my book is not a coincidence. Walking has always been a part of my life.

Walking quite literally became a lifelong journey for me, first with my husband, and then with my friends. Walking has carried me through more dark days than I care to remember. It became even more significant after my arm was fused in 2012 and my yoga days came to an end. There were days when the pain was so great that even walking to the mailbox seemed like a miracle. There’s a beautiful quote I love: “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” When the breast specialist called me that fateful Monday morning on October 1st , 2012, I asked him one question. “Am I going to die?” He did not answer.

After that, the gift of walking with my friends became very real.

It’s easy to carry friends in good times, to read the Bible and highlight special passages. It’s not so easy to carry friends during the difficult times, especially when those difficulties drag on. These woman lived out the highlights in their Bibles. They said to me, “I love you. I will carry you. I will not forsake you.”

There were many roadblocks, but when the road got bumpy, they got creative. When I was so emaciated from chemotherapy my oncologist wanted to insert a feeding tube, one of my angels said, “No more tubes, no more lines”—and she meant it. She decided that she would fill my baseball cap and wig with rocks so that I weighed enough to get to the next chemo treatment. And sure enough, the next week I gained enough weight to avoid the feeding tube. That was no coincidence, that was prayer. Another angel papered my house with Scriptures on post it notes all over my home, and I mean everywhere. She posted 250 of them. All to remind me how much God loved me and teach me how to dig deep to find God’s grace. My friends took my sons into their homes, fed them and loved them as their own children. They gave me beautiful wigs and braided them into something lovely instead of something that made me feel ashamed. They sat with me, cried with me, held me. They told me I was beautiful and worthy. They just kept showing up. Tirelessly they showed up.

They had families who needed them, children and husbands who required meals, time, and attention. Many had jobs and businesses to grow. Some had their own health issues to contend with. But they were fearless. They pounded down the roof. They taught me that real ministry gets messy. They didn’t just walk with me: they struggled, stumbled, heaved, sweat, and carried me, often sobbing and hopeless. They often felt despair, watching their friend suffer. But they didn’t quit.

Each one of those women were placed in my life, not to bring me gifts, but to leave ripples in every single room in my house. Every time they took me out, they left ripples in our community. They showed the world how to treat people. And people watched in awe as they cared for me.

My diagnosis seemed like a tragedy to me, but for them it became a purpose, a life-giving force. I went from having no voice to a mountain of women’s voices that spoke for me until I regained my own. They became my pen and paper, writing out my cards and letters. I had no arms from arm surgery and breast surgeries and ports and pic lines—not only could I not use my arms, I couldn’t even lift them—but these women became my arms. I no longer had just two: I had eighty-six arms. At any given time on any given day, I had eight legs carrying me. They carried me across the finish line.

They met me where I was, coming down to my level sometimes quite literally: even crawling under the table with me as I shook and cried. There were many times I wanted to quit, but they never let me. They showed me what it meant to be intentional about being a true friend.

My friends taught me they didn’t need an award—they’d already been given their reward. They taught me they didn’t want the spotlight. They gave me credit for enduring the physical pain and trauma of 28 chemos and 17 surgeries. But it’s not about me. It’s about people coming together to form one body. Our power is found when we start serving people—and my friends, my Angels, are the most powerful women I know,

My foundation was crumbling, but my Angels shored me up. My body was failing me, but my spirit was failing me more. I didn't want to keep living, didn't understand Gods plan. Why did they stay and fight ? They didn’t do it for their own glory. They didn’t do it for fame or recognition. They were selfless all the way through.

My life will never be the same. I walk through life differently now because of these women. I walk beside my friends and family differently. I walk through my faith differently. I am forever changed. This book is for all of you, for each and every one of you. It could never exist without you, because I don’t think I would exist without you. Parts of this book have been fictionalized but the friends part is 100 percent real.

I am healthy now and still my friends are never far behind me.

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