Let Your Friends Love You Enough During Cancer

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Having a support system of loved ones truly helps during cancer.

Illustration of a woman with curly red hair.

Recently, I was at a dinner party and someone was telling me about his terminal stage 4 cancer diagnosis and all that he has currently gone through. He ended by telling me there is no explanation for why he is still alive, except for prayer. He said he never believed so strongly in the power of prayer the way he does now. I understood how he felt.

I, too, had a similar experience. After experiencing a dramatic increase in my calcium, and needing an infusion immediately, my doctor ordered a CT scan (imaging that helps determine the stage of cancer), which showed lymph nodes had significantly increased all over my body. He explained that the road ahead would be challenging physically and emotionally. The scan indicated that my lymphoma transformed, and I would need to begin a very aggressive chemotherapy. It was no longer chronic. He wanted me to be psychologically prepared and I appreciated that. I began to plan how I would get through whatever I would face.

Telling my family and closest friends was my first plan of action. Many years ago, I watched my mother-in-law go through breast cancer. She refused to share anything with her friends. Only her husband and immediate family were aware of her condition. It was so sad to watch my father-in-law go through this alone. Yes, his family was there for him, but she requested that he not tell anyone else. In hindsight, she, as well as her family missed out on a huge piece that may have eased the anguish of her cancer journey. She missed out by not receiving her friends' support, love, and prayers. Shortly after my mother-in-law passed away, I read the following quote that has always stuck with me.
“Trouble is a part of your life, and if you don’t share it, you don’t give the person who loves you a chance to love you enough,” said Dinah Shore (An American singer during the big band era). After reading her advice, I thought back to my mother-in-law and how she handled her cancer. Everyone deals with these circumstances differently. We respected her wishes. She said she didn’t want anyone’s pity, but as a result, she did not let those who loved her love her enough. She didn’t even allow them “in” so they could pray for her.

I am a big believer in prayer. I realize that not everyone has the faith in God that I do. Family and friends who I believed loved me had to know what I was going through so I could at least give them the opportunity to pray for me. I needed to know that I would have extra prayers said on my behalf. Besides my family and friends, I wanted an army of people praying for me, if possible. I called a cousin in another country and asked for his prayers. At my place of worship, we have a list that is read a few times a week for people who are sick and need our prayers. I was sure to get my name on that list and it has remained there.

At that time, my doctor ordered a PET scan (imaging to help evaluate cancer), which was to be followed by a biopsy to confirm his suspicions before we could move forward. He said he would call me with the scheduled date as soon as possible. When I saw his name on my phone, I already felt anxious. When I answered my doctor said, “I have good news.”

“Does that mean you scheduled it?” I asked.

“No! You don’t need it at all! The PET scan showed no increase in metabolic activity on even the largest lymph nodes...the opposite of what my team and I predicted. It did not transform into an aggressive form of lymphoma. It’s the same chronic condition that you have, but it is progressing.”

The fact that it didn’t transform meant I didn’t need the aggressive chemo he prepared me for, but instead I would need to take a pill every 12 hours (Calquence [acalabrutinib], a BTK inhibitor). He explained it would melt away my enlarged lymph nodes that were now over my entire body. He said he couldn’t believe it. There was no explanation for it. I knew he wouldn’t believe me if I told him I thought there was a great explanation. So, knowing better than to share this with him, I just smiled and said, “Thank God.”

Having faith in God has made my life more meaningful and made all that I have been through over the past 14 years much easier. We all deal with adversity differently, but I wanted to share what has helped me get through my cancer diagnosis. I hope, at the very least, you will let your friends in and let them love you enough, however, they choose to do it.

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