MARIETTA - Kris Davis can't recall a time when she and Ila Cox were not friends. They grew up together along Ohio 26 in Marietta and remained friends after both married.
"We've been friends as far back as I can remember-for ages," said Davis, 47, of Lowell. "Ila babysat for my oldest son, Nathan, who is now 29."
But Davis couldn't have known how much Cox would lean on that friendship in later years, when Davis' experience with breast cancer led Cox to seek her out after she was diagnosed with the same cancer a few years later.
Photo by Sharon Bopp
Ila Cox, 60, of Marietta, turned to friend Kris Davis, 47, of Lowell, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. Davis, a breast cancer survivor who got her diagnosis in 2009, has been Cox’s mentor.
"When you're first diagnosed you don't know which way to turn or what to do, and Kris was right there," said Cox, 60, of Marietta.
Davis wasn't surprised to get a phone call from the emotionally distraught Cox.
"Ila called my sister and my sister said 'Will you please call Ila? She really needs you,'" remembered Davis.
That call was not an easy one for Davis or Cox.
"It's just the fear and the hurt because you know what this person is in for. Anything bad you don't want to wish on your worst enemy, let alone somebody you consider a great friend," Davis said.
From that first phone call, Davis stepped in and acted as her friend's mentor.
"Whenever I was sad or down or depressed and didn't know what to do, Kris was there," Cox said. "She's always there for comfort and support and knowledge."
Davis shared the knowledge she had about the surgery process that Cox was facing after her diagnosis.
"She would say 'Now, this is what's gonna happen after surgery' or 'This is what you need to take with you,'" said Cox.
Big ears and cheerleading skills came in handy for Davis in her mentoring role.
"I just always wanted to make sure I was there to listen to Ila. ...People don't understand. You try to portray how strong you are on the outside even though on the inside you're falling apart," said Davis.
Cox's illness has made her feel depressed at times, but Davis has been there to "kick" start her - literally.
"One time when I was down and depressed Kris said she was going to kick my butt if I didn't pick myself up. I thought 'I'd better get up!'" she said.
The need for a sense of humor in the face of the very serious diagnosis is something both women understand. Treatments mean one's body is more susceptible to germs and that hair can start falling out.
"When it was time to cut my hair, Kris even brought me my first wig. We were just kind of laughing about it," said Cox.
Cox is not sure she could be the same kind of mentor that her friend Kris has been for her.
"I like to stand in the background and help," Cox said. "When I see people out who are wearing a (breast cancer headscarf), I try not to stare. I just give them a smile or a thumbs up and tell them they're beautiful."
A smile was in Cox's voice as she talked about her friend Kris - the woman she calls her "angel."
Surprise - and tears - were in Davis's voice when she heard what Cox had said.
"I'm not speechless often but I was then. I wasn't doing anything for her that she wouldn't have done for me," said Davis.