Sometimes we luck out. Sometimes, we end up blessed with life-long friends.

Some of my closest are still the ones I grew up with. As kids, we rode bikes together, shared a seat on the school bus, talked and laughed and talked some more.

They are the friends who remain forever woven into the fabric of my life.

One of those friends is Flo Kehler. She was Flo Musch when we met in Grade 7 after she moved into my farming neighbourhood. She was a lot more studious than I ever was. She still is.

We graduated together. Got married within a few months of each other. Became moms around the same time.

That’s a lot of together. But what we never planned to do together was fight cancer.

The 3,800 Club

Flo was among a group of friends waiting in a hospital lobby to offer support as I met with a surgeon the day after learning I had breast cancer. That same afternoon, she had an ultrasound because of a red-flagged diagnostic mammogram. Two weeks later, she too was told she had breast cancer.

And just like that, we were part of the 3,800 Club – two of the more than 3,800 women expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in B.C. this year.

Initially, she was told it was the same kind I had – invasive ductal carcinoma (they later determined hers was invasive lobular breast cancer).

As we both waited for our surgery dates, we would go on hikes, sharing information. We debated the pros and cons of a lumpectomy vs. a mastectomy. Immediate reconstruction or delayed? Not exactly the conversations we ever imagined having.

She was there the day I had surgery. A week later, I was there when she had hers. We celebrated when I learned from my surgeon that my cancer was considered Stage 1 and I worried when doctors told her she had Stage 3 based on the size of her tumours, even though everything had been removed.

The 3,800 Club

She was with me as an oncologist revealed that I would need chemotherapy as a preventive measure because of the aggressive grade of my cancer and because mine could not be treated with hormone therapy. And I was there the day her doctor said that she would need hormone blocking therapy for a decade, but she was considered "cancer-free."

Our journeys have been parallel in so many ways and yet so very different. Cancer is complex. And as we learned, the “stage” of cancer doesn’t always dictate the treatment options.

Flo started taking her medications the same day I began chemotherapy. Still, she was there with me as I sat scared in the chemo room, wondering how I would get through this. And she’s been there ever since. She is beside me at every oncology appointment, taking notes, organizing the binders she made for me and filled with every medical report since my journey began. If I forget to ask the oncologist something, she remembers.

The 3,800 Club

She has a lot of her plate adjusting to her own "new reality," yet she spends a lot of time helping me cope with mine. I don’t have to explain things to her because every cancer fear, every worry, she has already lived. We have more decisions to make as we journey along and both face the possibility of future surgeries.

I wouldn’t want anyone to go through cancer, let alone a friend. But I’m grateful that if we both had to travel this road, we have been fortunate enough to do it together.

Sometimes we luck out. Sometimes, we end up blessed with life-long friends. 

Michele Brunoro will be providing ongoing updates during her medical leave on her blog, The 3,800 Club.

If you or a loved one is going through cancer and you have questions or just need to talk to someone, the Canadian Cancer Society has great supports in place.