12/08/2014 05:34 pm ET Updated Feb 07, 2015

Who's in My Support Network?


Growing up, I told my parents everything. Okay, there were one or two secrets that I kept to myself, but for the most part, I shared the day's events and my feelings about them over dinner each night. Over the years, my parents shared in my joy, happiness, frustration, and heartache at the kitchen table. They would listen patiently, ask questions, and give advice if warranted. And every night, I would give both of them a hug and a kiss and tell them that I loved them as I went to bed. They loved me unconditionally and were my biggest supporters.

And then my dad died when I was 19, a sophomore in college. My family only told me that he had an emergency and had been taken to the hospital and that I needed to fly home immediately. I was paralyzed with fear. My best friend from college packed for me, drove me to the airport, walked me to my seat on the plane, buckled my seat belt, and gave me a big hug before disembarking. Only when I reached my uncle's car in the airport parking lot did I learn that my dad had died. I called my best friend later that night and told her. Without a thought, she boarded a Greyhound bus the next morning to come support me in my time of need. I was an emotional wreck that year, but she was always there to talk and to provide a hug. While one-half of my original support network was gone, a true, unbreakable friendship was forged during those dark days.

That summer, when I was still grieving the loss of my dad, I met my other best friend in a French immersion program in Quebec. While waiting in line to take the oral placement exam, she looked at me and said, "Don't worry. Everything will be okay." And it finally was! Through our growing friendship, I began to laugh again. We live in different countries, but there is not a week that we don't talk. We belong to different ethnic groups, yet race has never been an issue between us. It is like we are soul sisters. When I need her, she is always there, supporting me. She was my rock during my mom's battle with lung cancer and subsequent death, as well as during my own cancer journey.

These days my domestic partner is the buttress of my support network. We discuss the day's events over dinner each night, sharing in each others triumphs and setbacks. He listens and always gives me advice whether I want it or not, and while, I don't need him to solve my problems, I always smile knowing that his heart is in the right place. And every night, I give him a hug and a kiss and tell him that I love him as we prepare for bed. Without fail, he breaks into laughter over our Hallmark moment, which causes me to giggle -- the perfect way to end the evening!

The members of my support network provide me with empathy, encouragement, love and laughter. They are caring, kind, and understanding. They celebrate with me on joyous occasions and allow me to lean on them in tough times. They are as committed to me as I am to them. They keep me grounded, while also allowing me to blossom. They are simply amazing!