As well as being a cancer blogger, Laura Yeager is a religious essayist and a mental health blogger. A graduate of The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, she teaches writing at Kent State University and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Laura survived cancer twice.
In the time of this pandemic, we're all in this together and need to give back where we can.
Everyone is struggling during this coronavirus pandemic. The local coffee shop is about to go under, and a patron has set up a GoFundMe account; they're trying to raise $8,000 to keep it afloat for the time being. Of course, no one can enter the coffee shop, order a cup of coffee and sit down to drink it. Lively discussions cannot go on about local, national and international concerns. People can't hang out, looking for soul mates. This is all because our governor has closed all of the restaurants, except for carryout and delivery. I guess the coffee shop is looking to the future when coffee drinkers can return; they want to be there for the community when this whole thing blows over.
My son's drama group is also struggling. (Of course, it's the small businesses that are feeling the brunt of this stinking illness.) The drama group requested $2,000.00 just to pay the rent and keep the utilities on.
Yes, everyone is struggling.
I sent both organizations $50.
And yesterday, I got a call from Vivian's Basics, another small business near me. It was the owner. She wanted to know if I needed anything. Vivian's Basics provides for breast cancer patients and survivors; they sell prostheses, bras, bathing suits and athletic wear. They also sell various breast cancer paraphernalia like pink scarves and decorative items for the home like candles and sentimental pictures, offering words of hope. It is not unusual for the store to call from time to time, but this call was different— I could hear the desperation in the owner's voice. Although I didn't want to go out and shop at her store, risking life and death, the thought of buying a bathing suit just to help keep her in business crossed my mind.
"I'm all set with prostheses," I said. "And I don't need bras."
I'd been patronizing this place since 2012. They knew me well - knew my story, knew my body and knew my needs. They were a sweet group at Vivian's Basics. They all talked quietly like well-behaved ladies. They were impeccably dressed and mannered. It was as if they'd all been to charm school.
I couldn't help but feel sorry for the owner of Vivian's Basics, but I was glad that my surgeries were probably over and my body would not be changing shape anymore.
First, there was the double mastectomy and the insertion of implants. This warranted purchasing bras. Then, the cancer came back on the skin of my right breast, and they had to remove the remaining tissue. This meant that my right side was much smaller than my left. I had to go back to Vivian's and purchase new bras and a breast form. A couple of years later, I decided I wanted my plastic surgeon to remove the implant in my left breast so that I'd be somewhat symmetrical. This warranted the need for a new prosthesis on my right side because my left side was still slightly larger.
In short, I'd been keeping this place in business for years. No wonder they were calling me. I was one of their best customers.
Maybe the owner simply wanted to talk to a familiar person. Maybe she wanted to hear a familiar voice.
"How are you doing?" I asked.
"Well, I'm hanging in there," she said.
Thank God for the phone that links us poor creatures together during this pandemic.
"Am I speaking to Vivian?" I asked.
"No. This is Susan."
Even though I had spoken to her many times in the past, she had never introduced herself by name.
"Is there a Vivian?" I asked.
"Vivian was my mother. She passed away from breast cancer."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"That's why I opened this store. In her memory."
"It's a beautiful store," I said.
"Thank you." She seemed to be mustering up the energy to deliver her next line. "Well, let me know if you need anything. We're here for you."
"On second thought," I said, "I will take one of those big pink candles that say, 'Survivor.' I've always liked those."
"Great!" she said. "Shipping is free right now. We'll send one out to you today."
"I'll light it at night and meditate."
"Perfect," she said.
"You take good care," I said.
"We will. You do the same."
Cancer survivors and the people who cater to cancer survivors are in a bind. We're all in a bind.
But I have to say, I welcomed Susan's call. It broke up my morning. I'd been homeschooling my kid and it was nice to talk to an adult, nice to know the owner's name after all these years and find a way to help.