As any woman who has overcome breast cancer can tell you, the disease can be isolating. Thankfully, Michelle James, 43, had the unwavering support of her longtime best friend, Danielle Brown to lean on. In December 2015 the Kentucky native, affectionately known as MJ, got the frightening news that the lump she found in her breast was cancerous. Brown was one of the first people she called. “Dani initially broke down, but she got it together and said, ‘We’re going to get through this together,’ ” MJ remembers. “People are afraid to share what they’re going through, because they don’t want to burden others. But what you find is that people want to support you.”
Brown, along with MJ’s close family and friends, sat with her through every round of chemo, radiation and surgery. Doctors allowed MJ two cocktails every three weeks with her BFF, a ritual that helped both women maintain a semblance of normalcy. “I kept moving because MJ kept moving,” Brown says. “I didn’t know exactly how scared she was at the time.”
MJ has been cancer-free for three years. She and Brown have launched the popular podcast Cocktails & Cancer, in which they reconnect for some drinks and real talk.
“On the show we often relive those moments we didn’t get to experience fully when I was going through treatment,” she says. “Because when you’re both trying to be strong, so much goes unspoken.” But as hard as treatment was, it encouraged both women to hold their friendship a little tighter. They make it a point to have weekly dates in the city to bask in quality time. Says MJ: “I always tell Dani that I hope that I am as good a friend to her as she has been to me.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of ESSENCE Magazine, on newsstands now.