Susan and Jackie in Balat neighborhood of Istanbul
I’m lucky. Oh, yeah, not so fortunate to have cancer, but…
I have friends who are willing to travel around the world – literally – to be with me. This week, Susan Colby, a longtime, dear friend whom I first met in the early days of working with McKinsey & Company, is with me. The best part of that work was the legacy of wonderful people, and Susan is no exception.
She was the first and one of the only women I worked with at McKinsey. She was also a mom and breast cancer survivor when we met. She was senior to me and inspiring in the way she integrated work and life. She’s had her priorities in order. Working with Susan was the first time I looked ahead in my career and thought, yeah, I’d like to be that person. No offense to all the men I worked with at McKinsey, but balancing work and family just wasn’t usually done at the same level. Susan and her wonderful husband Peter and adorable daughters, Rachel and Rebecca…well, that was a model I could embrace and get excited about. Susan put tight boundaries around her work hours so they could cook and have family dinners, read books, and do the things that families do. She insisted on working part-time when hardly anyone did, so she could work around being there for her family. Investing in life made her work even better, more centered, and wiser than it would have been otherwise. We became fast friends and enthusiastic coworkers. For a time, after she left McKinsey to join a company, she was even a client of mine…a truly effective, co-creative experience. She knew me when I first started dating John. I remember being so glad to see her face in the church when we got married.
You know how you have some friends that don’t live near you, but you stay together even though you’re apart? You don’t have to be together to be together. Susan has lived in DC and San Francisco, while I’ve been in Chicago and Cleveland. We made time to connect through the years, including some fun travel. When she had a recurrence of cancer, I was part of her life and did what I could to be supportive from afar. When cancer struck me, she was a nurturing ninja, knowing just what to say, sending uplifting notes and little gifts, and generally just-right empathizing with the shitty nature of the disease and the treatments.
This week is a whole new level. Susan has TAKEN OVER MY KITCHEN!!!!! There is something about coming home from chemo day, lying on the couch, listening to cooking sounds, watching her expertly dance around a foreign and small kitchen, and smelling the most amazing chicken piccata a la Susan, that is mothering in the best way. I had not 2 but 3 plates…one at midnight because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I can still use some more weight, so this is goooooood. I’m no dummy, so gratefully requested more meals. Beef tips and veggies au Susan and chicken Provencal were also on the menu. Yummmmmmm.
Chicken piccata, green beans, and garlic roasted potatoes
Beef and veggies in a red wine/mustard/shallot sauce
Chicken Provencal with pan-seared balsamic broccoli
We enjoyed some beautiful fresh fish and iskender out as well. So nourished, it was somehow not so hard to walk all the way from my apartment through Macka Park to the Bosporus to enjoy a Turkish coffee. Ahhh, sea breeze.
Dinner at Hanedan fish restaurant on the Bosporus
Cherry blossoms are out in Macka Park
Turkish coffee on the Bosporus
We had a wonderful day with tour guide extraordinaire and friend Hakan Gurger, enjoying Galata Port, Balat, Fener, crossing the Galata Bridge, and wandering the spice bazaar. It’s a good feeling to forget why I’m here sometimes and imagine we’re just enjoying another girls’ trip. Life with treatment interrupting as opposed to treatments with a dash of life.
Jackie and Susan next to the Golden Horn
Hakan, Jackie, and Susan enjoying Turkish coffee in Galata Port
Jackie and Susan in Balat and Fener neighborhoods of Istanbul
I’ve also slept well this week, no doubt because of her caring. Susan also, despite her own traumatic experiences with cancer herself and in her family, kept me company in all the best ways through chemo day.
What I hate about chemo day is chemo. Even nutritional infusion days are frustrating. It’s hard to be poked and hooked up for hours, unable to leave. But there is an upside to that…time. Without tight deadlines and plenty of time to fill, we talk, we laugh, we remember things we’ve done together, we share stories about family and other times in our lives. This luxury of time with such a longtime and dear friend who doesn’t live nearby can’t be underestimated. The whole Colby family is here with her in spirit. Rachel has inspired me by gracefully managing her own journey with breast cancer way too young. Susan got me through hyperthermia by reading a funny article about #vanlife sent by Rebecca and playing and dancing to music (I danced inside). The rest of the family sent supportive notes and texts. Susan set up the food, the fan, brought water, applied cold compresses, and brought a coloring book and markers (not just any coloring book!)
It’s not easy work and certainly could be triggering for someone who has been through this kind of dance before, and not just once, as a patient and a mom. That’s the biggest gift of all and what’s so hard – Susan managed to get her own triggers out of the way to be with me. That’s pure empathy. It’s so simple but so hard to do. Susan is a survivor who retained her humanity and empathy.
That’s the secret. That’s the key. That’s the healing power underneath the cooking, company, and nurturing. That compass of empathy is a guiding force that brings the best out of us, even in difficult circumstances. Metabolizing your own trauma is certainly one path to liberating that power. I can say that receiving this kind of nurturing from Susan, John, and my other friends and caregivers here in Turkey has also tempered the trauma of this experience for me. That helps too.
So, I hope when you are faced with trauma, you find empathetic nurturing, and I hope when you have the chance to help others, you can get your own triggers out of the way. I hope you have such good friends, who would nurture you and visa versa.
It’s not easy.
But it’s powerfully healing.
Fantastic!! Thanks as always for sharing!
Another writing that shows your strength and grace.
Friends that we can rely on like a cherished book or piece of music are truly the best gifts life can give us Jackie and I am so glad you have those treasures in your life. As I am so blessed as well!
Your pictures and travels make me want to get the luggage out and find the passport! Thanks for sharing your journey…and food! Can’t wait to have you back in state-side soon!
Such GREAT news about Grant and Villa Nova!!
Yes! Thank you, Father Brian ❤️
What a testament to your own fabulousness that you have such a deep, wide, and delightful social network. I love following along on your adventures (and challenges) and hope we can be together in person soon!! Sending much love
Much love back to you, dear friend
Yes, yes, and yes! Thank you for sharing your friend, experiences, thoughts and feelings. What wonderful gifts for all of us. You are amazing.
Thanks so much, Tilly
This makes me so happy!
Amen to empathic nurturing and deep and abiding friendships! Jackie, you look beautiful in those photos…your color is better and your cheeks are fuller!! What a blessing your treatment and caring of family, friends and professionals has been. Thank you for continuing to share your journey, wisdom and beautiful soul with us.
Thank you, Roxanne 😘
Jackie–What a wonderful post! I am so glad Susan can be with you during this time. You look strong and beautiful in the photos. We are all sending our wishes your way.
Peter, thanks so much for sharing her and all of your support and encouragement. I look forward to fun times altogether soon ❤️
Thank you for the amazing blog post and the absolute privilege and trust you have placed in me to be with you as you go through this ordeal, Jackie. This was not the girls’ trip we were imagining (next time!), but we are getting through with as much joy, love and honesty as we can muster. You are an absolutely extraordinary woman. I love you, admire you, and am here for you always.
Love you ❤️
Thank you 🙏
Thank you Jackie! Thoughtful and uplifting post. Glad you are eating well! Sending love and encouragement!
Thanks so much, Paul. Much love back to you
True friendship is a blessing. It warms the heart.
I have been helping a dear neighbor who is in congestive heart failure. all this past week.
Loved seeing your photos with your “special”
God bless both of you..
Yes it is ❤️ Love you
I haven’t pressed flesh with three of my best mates in years. Cancer, Covid, and a litany of other variables played a role. This doesn’t mean we don’t love one another and this summer when I see them for the race will be special!
Love, Praise and Gratitude in all you do, The Universe has truly given you a wonderful support group, yet it is your own Inner Strength that is receptive and giving 24/7. Just Be….
or Be Still and Know, I AM.