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I hated splitting the bill so much that I couldn't enjoy dinner with friends. My cancer diagnosis taught me to relax about it.

Friends drinking wine and eating at a fancy restaurant
Allison Langer (not pictured) says she has always hated paying for more than her share at expensive restaurant dinners with friends.Getty Images

A few years back, a friend invited me to her birthday dinner. I love this friend, but she and the others are very successful, and I had a feeling I was about to end up in a setting I hate: going to a fancy restaurant, where, when the time comes to pay, someone (usually the person who ate and drank the most) says, "Let's just split it evenly."

Still, I held onto the hope that since my friend had invited us, she would pick up the tab. I didn't order anything too expensive. If she were paying, I wouldn't want her to think I ordered Chilean sea bass instead of a beet salad just because I was being treated. I've also never been a big drinker — it's rare I'll even have one glass of wine at a meal, and I wasn't about to start that night. Then, a guy at the table started ordering expensive cabernet and "appetizers for the group." He didn't ask what worked for everyone; it was clear he'd put himself in charge. That's when I knew I was in trouble.

I almost hadn't even accepted the invitation to dinner, but I was determined to get my mind off the news I'd received earlier in the week.

I was waiting to see an oncologist to determine whether I had ovarian cancer

I'd been having pain in my ovarian region, so after an iffy-looking ultrasound, my gynecologist had me take a blood test that checks a protein called CA-125. It came back high, which can be a sign of ovarian cancer. But an elevated CA-125 is not a diagnosis, and we wouldn't know anything for sure until I saw an oncologist.

In the meantime, I was determined to eat clean. Red meat and alcohol were not in my diet. Neither was dairy, gluten, sugar, and caffeine. I went all in. I would be the best pre-cancer diagnosis person ever. Part of that included being more present in my life and spending time with the people I love, even if that meant spending a lot of money on an expensive meal I wouldn't eat.

There were 15 people, so the guy who put himself in charge ordered multiples of each appetizer. I looked at the menu as he rattled off items: bacon-wrapped dates, carpaccio, a charcuterie board. Nothing I would eat, and all well over $20 each. But instead of accepting my fate and enjoying myself, I stewed.

"Why did I come? I knew this would happen. I can't believe I'll probably have to pay for all this," I thought.

I was having a hard time enjoying myself because I was thinking of the bill

I completely zoned out to the conversation around me, my mind focused solely on the cost. These people were enjoying life, and I was sure mine was slowly slipping away. The weight of cancer felt overwhelming. I wanted to run.

One of the guys leaned in and looked at me with his eyebrows raised. I saw his lips moving, but I felt so far away. I realized he was talking to me and asked me again, "Are you single?"

I knew he was gay and in a happy relationship. His partner of many years was also at the party, so I assumed he had a straight single friend. It turned out I was right. I let him ramble on about his friend. I think his name was Mark or Marco. Either way, no, thank you. He sounded fine, but I nodded along, thinking, "Your friend wants nothing to do with me. I'm a trainwreck." I wasn't ready to tell anyone about my impending doom, hoping that if I said nothing, the problem might go away.

Everyone was getting blitzed, laughing, eating, and having a great time. I was miserable. I'd eaten a few bites of lettuce and a spoonful of rice, and still, my belly was fighting with the top button of my jeans. I began dreaming about going home, getting into my loose pajama bottoms, and relaxing with a heating pad. I needed to be horizontal. You'd think I'd be living it up, considering the possibility of the C-word, eating everything, getting drunk. After all, this could be my last time celebrating a friend's birthday with this group. For all I knew, I could be dead by the next year.

When the bill came, the guy who had ordered all the appetizers said, "Toss in your credit cards. We'll split the bill." Then he looked at the birthday girl and said, "Except you, princess. This is our treat."

I'd known it was coming, and still, I was pissed. I considered lifting my ass and bloated gut (one of the first signs of ovarian cancer) from the seat and running for the door, but leaving before paying isn't my thing. I'd agreed to this dinner knowing even in our 40s and 50s, when some of us may not have increased her wealth to the same degree, this situation of throwing a fancy dinner party and letting your friends pay was likely, so I sucked it up and tossed in my card.

Not long after, my diagnosis changed my perspective

A few weeks later, dining out would not be an option. Turns out ovarian cancer steals your appetite and your desire. It makes you want to remain under the covers and wish paying for someone else's food was your biggest problem. I stopped thinking about money; I was too concerned with living.

Each week, as I sat hooked up to a chemo drip, I realized I'd been so focused on the cost of living a happy life that I'd stopped enjoying the life right in front of me. I vowed to change that if and when I recovered. And I did for a while. I showed up at the dinners. Ate or didn't and paid whatever. I was just happy to be with my friends. Eight months post-diagnosis, I was cancer-free. I threw a party at my house, thrilled to pay for everything. Then, with each clean PET scan, I returned to my old self, albeit a slightly better version.

This past weekend, I took my kids and their friends to Naples. We rented an Airbnb, stocked it with everyone's favorite foods (Lucky Charms, slice-and-bake chocolate-chip cookies, Pop Corners), played games (Cards Against Humanity and Telestration), and we watched "Love is Blind," then "Madea Goes to Jail," then another season of "Love is Blind." We went to the beach, barbecued by the pool, and went thrift shopping. We laughed and stayed up late. We bunked together and suffered through the sunburns and the rain. We saw two gorgeous sunsets and took lots of pictures. We lived and enjoyed and spent money the way I liked to now — not on fancy meals but on memories.

It's been four and a half years since my friend's birthday dinner. I've gotten better at predicting when the toss-in-your-credit-card type of dinner situation will occur. Sometimes, if I'm not as close with the people who have invited me or I'd rather save money, I opt out. Sometimes, I side-step my stupidity and my good financial sense and enjoy living.

But I still obsess over how much everyone orders and then complain about how much I had to pay for someone else's meal and alcohol. Maybe that's just who I am. I do, however, order the sea bass.

Read the original article on Business Insider