Guest Story: How Friendship Helped Heal

*Guest names have been changed to protect patient privacy*

In the largest room of Caring House, where the ceilings are 30 feet high, where comfy couches line the room, and where abstract art hangs on airy blue walls, you hear the laughter of two women whose friendship began over a span of just five weeks.  

In the midst of cancer treatment, Caring House has offered North Carolina natives, Emily* and Barbara*, a gift they did not expect – a supportive community and a lifelong bond. The dynamic duo began their journey at Duke Cancer Institute in the Fall of 2022. For Emily, it was breast cancer. For Barbara, uterine cancer. Over five weeks, they became fast friends; their friendship the kind that weathers dark storms and strengthens the soul. Their connection radiated, clearly visible to anyone that saw them interact with each other. 

From nearly anywhere in the house, you heard Emily and Barbara chatting in the dining room after a long day of treatment or walking the halls together. They joked with each other with the kind of ease that usually comes from years of knowing someone: finishing each other’s sentences, repeating the same thoughts, blending their bubbly personalities into a beautiful melody of comfort and connection. 

“With this special friendship I’ve made, I think it’s a lasting one,” said Emily. “Because she’s not going to get rid of me!”

In the quickest response from Barbara, with the words wrapped in laughter, she joked, “I’ve tried!”

Throughout my conversation with the two about their experience at Caring House, I kept hearing the words “comfort” and “healing.” How Caring House has given them something to be thankful for. How the beautiful home lives up to its name. They explained that everyone here tries to take care of each other, checking in on those who don’t show up for dinner, sharing food, and sitting outside with others. The pair enjoyed sitting near the koi pond after treatment or finding peace in their quiet rooms. But they never missed an opportunity to gather with guests in the dining room. “We draw everybody in!” Emily said. That does not come as a surprise to me, as their infectious energy pulls you in instantly. 

Barbara often cooked breakfast for the two, even though she didn’t even cook at home. A simple testament to how a special friendship can bring you to do anything for someone else. Emily mentioned she’ll cry when Barbara leaves, missing her cooking too. 

After their stay at Caring House, Emily and Barbara have planned to keep in touch. They even planned to go Christmas shopping together. As Barbara wrapped up her time here and rang the cancer bell that symbolized the end of treatment, the two focused on what they would do at Caring House while still here together.

 “We’re going to have bacon and eggs in the morning,” said Barbara. 

“At 8:30,” added Emily a second later. 

I heard them in the kitchen until they both left the place that connected them to a community during a difficult part of their lives. My hope is they continue to grow their friendship, keeping their hearts linked by a unique experience in Durham, North Carolina. 

On a windy fall morning, I smelled bacon from my office down the hall. Emily and Barbara cooked breakfast together at Caring House, enjoying each other’s company and continuing to find similarities they share. Two women, both grandmothers, both cancer survivors. Both with joyful laughs and big smiles. Both sharing bacon and eggs in the dining room.

Both prefer Eggland’s Best.

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Written by: Kristen Luft, Communications Associate