The distance between Point A and Point B is supposed to be a straight line. With the precision of a ruler, we research the shortest path to save time, energy and the possibility of any road blocks. Cancer prefers the meandering trail, a snake-like road that at many points seems to be going in the opposite direction of our final destination.

When my family goes on a road trip, we generally choose the shortest route, begin our adventure early in the morning, but then stop every few hours for snacks and bathroom breaks. Slow and steady, we get there with a car full of kids still in relatively good spirits.

Cancer prefers to dictate a more varied pace. Sometimes riding with cancer is speedy fast, we can barely hang on and there are certainly no stops for sightseeing. Ten miles down the road, though, cancer may decide to creep along at an agonizingly slow speed while everyone in the car is screaming, “Let’s just get there already!”

Don’t you dare yell from the backseat, “Are we there yet?” The answer is always no. Even once you’re declared cancer-free, there is always one more doctor appointment in the future, and the shadow of cancer will always be in the room.

Every journey with cancer will look different. Mine is different from yours and yours is different from your mother’s or your brother’s or your best friend’s. We each get a unique trip of our own, and none of us gets a roadmap.

But we do get something. We get each other. We get to share what we’re seeing and experiencing along the way. Perhaps someone else has seen it, but even if they haven’t, they’ve seen enough to understand the exhilaration and desperation, the joy and the pain, that cross between your journey and mine.

Come to think of it, it’s not just cancer that likes to roll without a map. Life’s like that, too. Today will be different from tomorrow and my today will bare only a vague resemblance to yours. But again, we can be assured that in whatever we’re feeling, we’re never traveling alone. Someone else has seen it, will see it, or is seeing it now. That’s why it’s so important to reach out to other people: ask the man next to you how he’s doing, or get the woman who’s sitting alone to talk about her favorite vacation destination. Sharing in the good times and bad, with or without cancer in the picture, makes the journey so much more enjoyable.