The Kind of Friend We Deserve

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by Brad Dell |

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When I met Alexander, he was thin, his nose bled a lot, and he had tubes in his ears. I was a lonely first-grader fresh to Hawaii, and just as thin and malfunctioning as the brother I didn’t yet know.

How could I ever adequately thank the teacher who commanded me to walk the bleeding boy to the nurse’s office during recess?

Soon, we’d be known as the kids who thought they were Jedi, then British super spies, then ninjas, then Hogwarts wizards. Small, rather weak and dorky, we envisioned ourselves as mighty and powerful. Our imaginations ran wild and every day we’d have a new mission to accomplish — take down the schoolyard bully, deliver secret packages, eavesdrop on teachers. Between those missions, we’d read together for hours on end — even spending all-nighters to read through Harry Potter.

I can directly trace my creative writing abilities to the daily creation of those missions and our intensive book club. In those activities, I found escape from a diseased identity I was not yet willing to embrace.

We were messed with plenty — not sure if you can guess why based on the description above! But we’ve always pulled each other out of the messes. We always have had each other’s back. He’s the kind of friend who I think about … then cry. He’s done that much for me.

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Brad and Alex in 10th grade at a mountain bike race. (Courtesy of Brad Dell)

Alex has a heart of gold. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone as generous as him. I’ve seen the dude fly across state borders to meet with people who struggled with emotional health. The old friend has held fundraisers in my honor, has pushed me to exercise more, and he’s tweeted often just to publicly express his gratitude for my health. At times, I swear he’s more grateful that I’m alive than I am. His gratitude reminds me to up my own; to celebrate my victories with relish. He teaches me to be a person who savors the good that pierces the bad — an essential lesson for those with a disease.

Life has physically parted us from one another time and time again yet our bond remains titanium. These days, Alex isn’t so frail. He’s a rock-climbing, strong man in the Army, and instead of compressing nose bleeds, he analyzes blood as a laboratory technician. He’s told me that his dream is to contribute something to the goal of curing cystic fibrosis. I believe him, and in him.

It’s been almost two decades since we became friends and he still has my back. The majority of my cherished memories with him involve him caring for me without a selfish bone in his body. I think all who endure disease and disability deserve a friend like Alex.

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Brad and Alex in 2017. (Photo by Kristina Kornegay)

Some advice on choosing and celebrating friends as a person with CF:

  • It’s often wise to befriend someone who also struggles physically. In that, you find empathy.
  • It’s often wise to befriend someone who has a vivid imagination. In that, you find escape.
  • It’s often wise to befriend someone who not only understands your disease but wants to do something to end the suffering. In that, you find security.
  • It’s often wise to befriend someone who celebrates your victories as much, or even more so, than you. In that, you find refreshing gratitude.
  • It’s always wise to cherish the friends who have had your back through all of the surgeries, side effects, symptoms, and mental breakdowns. In them, you find unconditional love.
  • It’s always good to publicly recognize those friends’ efforts to care against all odds. In that, they realize their immense value.

So, thanks, Alex. You’ve always been a brother and for that I love you.

Is there a friend you need to celebrate? Then do it.


Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


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