It takes a village to support someone through a cancer diagnosis.
Recently I published a book on my cancer journey titled “Life Is Short — Eat the Donut!” I insisted on giving a copy to one of my dearest friends who has helped me the most. It was she who was with me on my initial visits to the doctor ,when I was trying to get oriented to chemo. She accompanied me when I traveled to two major universities to get second opinions on treatments. She still takes me to all my bone marrow biopsies every six months. And she was the one there to wipe away my tears when my first oncologist told me I only had 100 months to live and that this was an incurable cancer.
Edlyn looked over the acknowledgments in my book. I had so many people to thank, and know I probably unintentionally left some people out. I know most people do not bother to read this page, but as an author I always do because this page describes the personality of the author.
Slowly, Edlyn spoke and said, “There are so many people who have helped you.”
I answered, “I know and am so fortunate.”
Her sensitive eyes met mine and she said, “But what about the people who don’t have this type of support. What do they do?”
I felt a shock tingle throughout my body. She was absolutely right. No one — and I mean no one – can ever fight this insidious disease alone.
Later, I gazed over the acknowledgements again. The dedication page was to my amazing oncologist. I also thanked all the people at the cancer center including the receptionists, lab people, doctors and nurses who worked there. There are over 40 of them and I know that because one year I gave each one a snowflake ornament for the holidays.
I thought about my family and friends who were with me during my tough start of a new chemo. Several of these friends brought me food. The friend who cleans my apartment is invaluable. My neighbors who carry groceries up the stairs when I am too weak to carry them have my enduring gratitude.
I have a wonderful pastor and congregation who support me immensely. I treasure my nutritionist and trainer from the LIVESTRONG program, who have done so much to keep me healthy and balanced!
I belong to a patient advisory committee, and the other participants are such fighters and an inspiration to me. I have also met the administrators at the hospital who work so hard behind the scenes to ensure that things run smoothly.
I am fortunate because I have several close friends who “get it.” They laugh and cry with me though the ups and downs and they are wonderful. I also have received countless cards, prayers and messages of love that keep me going.
My service dog is always by my side, and her sweet and gentle temperament never changes. She is old for a dog (almost 14), very stiff and sore and still wants to be with me. She actually picks up my keys that I keep in a basket in the hallway and hands them to me when I head for the door, because she wants to be with me so much! I am truly blessed.
However, my advice to others is to reach out and admit when you do not feel good and have a bad day. It took me a couple of years to do this. People cannot help if they do not know what you need. Since I am very independent and have lived alone for over 45 years, this was a tough lesson for me. I already am asking friends and family if they will help me if I start new chemo.
I truly do not know how people without this support do it. I am thankful every day. It does take a village and it is up to us to use it!