When I met my friend Molly over 20 years ago in an acting class, I never thought that we would be traveling this road together. Molly was from the upper West side in New York City and I was from the opposite side of the tracks: a Midwestern girl from the big city/small town of St. Louis. We had nothing in common except for the fact that we somehow signed up for this acting class on Melrose in Los Angeles
Little did I know that almost two decades later, Molly and I would be going through one of the deepest, darkest, and most beautiful journeys together. Molly was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. She underwent chemo, a bilateral mastectomy, radiation and breast reconstruction. I was no stranger to cancer as my brother battled it for 10 years, and my father died of it when he was only 51 years old.
Then, Molly was re-diagnosed as stage IV, and I knew that things had permanently shifted.
I think I knew in my brain that this was putting a timeline on Molly’s life. But I don’t think my heart really absorbed the information. Even though I had lost people to cancer, somehow, I thought that she was invincible. Our friendship was tested and grew in ways I never expected.
Molly used to say things like, "I mean we’re all going to die at some point right. I’m just going to die a little bit sooner." Knowing that information always made the time feel precious. And we made a promise to always talk about the real stuff when we were together. Molly pushed me to think about things in a whole new way. She was the least judgmental person I’ve ever met. Always looking at things from the other side. She was able to reframe things from a different perspective in a matter of seconds. She wasn’t always this way. I believe she grew into this person as time went on. She grew into this thinking as some of us do when we get to our late 20's and find a little wisdom. But adding the additional layer of dealing with cancer inspired her to show up in a really beautiful way, in the world.
Molly decided to leave her husband and sexually explore herself when she was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. This was a way to reclaim her body. Reclaim her sexuality and fight cancer in a way that I had never heard of before. She would say that being sexual was the antithesis to death. In fact, she didn’t tell many of her suitors that she was even sick in the first place. Even though scars existed on her body, and she sometimes had a bald patch on her scalp. She still made time to date, even though she was extremely thin from not being able to hold down food, Molly still managed to find time to embark upon her sexual escapades as part of her healing process.
I'm very aware that this is not the "normal" response to finding out you're terminally ill, but everyone deals with this type of news differently. If I've learned anything from Molly, it's not to judge!
Molly and I got closer than expected. Not just emotionally but physically as well. She literally moved two minutes from my house.Once she left her ex-husband’s home and relocated to the Valley, she and I started having almost weekly lunches to discuss our lives and her new adventures in the bedroom. One day while driving I said, "Your life is so interesting we should make it into a show." Who gets diagnosed and then leaves her safety net? Her zest for life and her curiosity about sex was so fascinating that I wanted to dig deeper.
I asked a million questions about what and who she was doing. She was reclaiming her body in such an interesting way. We got closer and closer by the minute because she was going through the toughest health crisis of her life as well as opening up a part of her that had been closed off for so long.
Many people may not understand her journey, and I get that. But what I can say is that until you've been faced with a terminal illness and walked in her shoes... you really can't judge her process. I was a little protective at times, but this was HER journey. And I had to just dive in and let her explore without judgment. Much like she would have if the shoe was on the other foot.
When we recorded the Wondery podcast together, Molly was so open and funny despite being exhausted and ill. We loved working together. While driving to and from the sessions and talking the whole way, we constantly laughed together and had too many inside jokes to count.
She really came alive when she was able to share these stories. She loved the idea of sharing her story with a huge group of strangers from a little room with two microphones.
During her illness and while doing the podcast together, I learned so much. Molly taught me by example. Watching her navigate that portion of her life inspired me to stretch and be better; to be less judgmental and allow space for people to be vulnerable.
Sweet Molly taught me so much!
I learned to be more open-minded and to be more compassionate.
I learned to be more present.
I learned that how you navigate your losses is just as important as
how you celebrate your successes.
I learned how to set boundaries and how to enjoy the simple things.
But more than anything, I learned that truly connecting with another
person is the most powerful thing we can do with our time here.
Wondery Podcast Network will be including invitations to donate to METAvivor during the Dying For Sex Podcast which was released on Wednesday, February 12, 2020. The podcast features Molly Kochan O who was living with stage IV metastatic breast cancer.
Warning: This podcast contains sexually explicit material and may not be for everyone. You can listen to the trailer here.
The Dying for Sex podcast series is available where you get your podcasts, or you can listen here.