The Buddy System

She's the first person you call when something amazing -- or awful -- happens. She never judges you and she knows all your secrets. Why are girlfriends so key to our health and happiness? To find out, we went straight to the source.
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Old College Pals

Helena Hummel & Sarah Johnson

Helena, 36, a graphic designer, and Sarah, also 36, a commercial property manager, have been best friends since their freshman year.

Different Stripes: 1993

The two women met in Spanish class at the University of Texas at San Antonio more than 15 years ago. Typically, Helena -- "I'm kind of a free bird, la-la land person" -- had forgotten to bring a pencil. Sarah lent her one. "I'm more of a planner," says Sarah. Different is good: "We balance each other out."

The Bonding Moment: 1995

They initially connected because they had so much fun together. But their bond was cemented during a study session when Sarah confided in Helena about her mom's early death. "It was always easy to open up to her," says Sarah. "We've been there for each other ever since," Helena adds.

Sticking Together: 1996

Sarah and Helena have helped each other through everything from rough relationships to bad-hair days: "Your hair is a little orange," Sarah once said. "You kind of do need to wax your eyebrows," Helena admitted on another occasion. Both love having a friend who'll tell her the unvarnished truth.

For Better and Worse: 2001

When Sarah got married, Helena was a bridesmaid. When Helena had to move, Sarah was there, helping to scrub her bathroom walls. But the real key to the friendship? "We make time for each other," says Sarah. "No matter what is going on in our lives, we get together every Monday night," Helena says.

Up for Anything: 2007

The friends vacation together regularly. "We did a rafting trip, went ziplining in the jungle, and visited volcanoes in Costa Rica," Helena says. "We both like adventure." And it's always just the two of them, says Sarah. "We'll think about inviting other people to join us, but then we wouldn't be able to talk!"

Friendship First: 2009

Married vs. single? Not a problem. "I love her kids," says Helena, "but we talk about lots of other things." That's no accident, says Sarah -- it's important to her to maintain an identity separate from that of mommy and wife. The secret of their friendship success? "I don't know," says Sarah. "We just love each other!'

Continued on page 2:  Breast-Cancer Buddies


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