MARIETTA, Ga. - It may seem like an odd place to strike up a friendship, a tiny waiting room in the radiation department at the WellStar Kennestone Cancer Center.
But that's where 91-year old Buddy Harris and 46-year old Andy Hite found themselves, both undergoing radiation treatment for head and neck cancers.
"We introduced ourselves. And it just sort of clicked," says Buddy Harris.
"I guess we just started cracking jokes, telling stories," adds Andy Hite.
Buddy Harris is a retired Powder Springs funeral director, married 60 years to the love of his life Dolores, proud a father of two girls, even prouder grandfather of a young Marine.
Andy Hite is a Cobb County Police Captain, the Director of Training for the department. He's married with two teenage sons.
"His treatment came after mine each day," says Buddy Harris.
And the day they met, Buddy was a week and a half into his 6 weeks of back-to-back radiation treatments.
So, he knew the routine: the staff will come get you, and help you up on the table.
But when the mask is placed over your head, and the machine is turned on, you're on your own.
Yet, all of this was new to Andy.
His first treatment, especially the mask, had shaken him. Because it was so tight, he couldn't breathe.
"I was really struggling," Hite says. "My hands would be blue."
Now, nervously waiting for treatment number two, he found himself sitting next to Buddy Harris.
"I looked over there, and he just smiled at me," Hite says.
Buddy liked that Andy, who is also going through chemotherapy, was low-key.
"So many other people are just overwhelming when you first meet him," Harris says.
"What I like about him is he's actually a really funny guy," says Hite. "He moves really slow, because he's 91, but his mind is really sharp."
The men found themselves looking forward to seeing each other, waiting for one another to finish their treatments.
They may look life father and son, but they see each other as equals.
"I think initially they thought I was doing something nice by talking to him," says Andy Hite. "But, no, that is not the case."
"I worry about him because he doesn't eat," says Harris. "He's lost weight."
And Andy wondered why, at 91, Buddy would put himself through this.
"And this treatment is horrible," Hite says. "It's painful. You're sick. It hurts to talk."
Then he saw Buddy with his wife Dolores.
"I thought, that makes sense, that's why he's doing it," says Hite.
Now, surrounded by his family, with Andy watching, Buddy rings the bell, symbolizing the end of his treatment.
Andy Hite still has 8 more rounds to go.
But, he says, if Buddy can do this, he can do this.
"You saw him," Hite says. "A little bitty man. But he's tough."
This is the last time Buddy Harris and Andy Hite will walk out of here together."
"(We're) just two old men," Hite laughs.
Watching them, you get the feeling this friendship is just beginning.
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