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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sleepless in cancer...

You ever notice in those movies where the husband who has lost his wife is doing great, dating, kids are growing and as healthy as wheat toast and then one day, on his way to a church picnic, clamoring open a closet for a red and white checked blanket and boom...the shoebox of wedding pictures fall all over him; like a blanket of past. I think that's my relationship with Cancer only that shoebox straddles my shoulders just waiting for a moment of rest to nose dive into my lap. To be fair, I am around it all the time. As much as I have rid my home of head coverings and short hair, nausea meds and bland foods; I still see pink ribbons and of course, Dr Dennison, my oncologist. Nothing makes your day like a few hours in her waiting room...cancer on line 2, cancer on line 3, radiation patients report to Dawn, tears, holding hands - a moving, live vigil of people waiting to die or begging to live. I go back in my mind sometimes and remember how I survived. Most definitely it was my friends, my dad and Joseph. It's ironic in many ways - some of my closer friends left; had no idea how to talk to me or be with me but some distant friends became the survival committee. My friend and I have a running joke about teaching people what to say and what not to say when you hear a friend has cancer...here, let me help you. If they pray? Offer that but if they don't, back off. Some of us have very complicated relationships with whomever is up there and the pray comments fly like mashed potatoes...ahem...not that it was me or anything. Don't ASK if you can help, just do it. I had so many offers for dinner and seriously...am I really going to call you and asked for a baked chicken? Just tell her what day and bring it. In throw away containers so returning items is the last thing she needs to do. It freezes and her family will eat it. Go for fun - pasta is nice but the girl who made me Asian lettuce wraps is still on my mind. My other friend made an entire southern feast for my husband and I ate half the bread pudding on my ride home. Offer to be there but don't be offended if she doesn't want you at chemo. How about the most devastating and humbling experience of your life spanning several hours...stay back but offer...take whatever excuse she offers to decline. Just get it. A friend of mine brought me nice head coverings...very nice idea and hey, when you are bald you still want something fun or comfortable on your head. My friend knew my favorite flavors from Baskin Robbins and dropped them off on my "off chemo" weeks - I loved every second of those. Every chemo week I would get a hysterical "cancer" card from another friend - made me laugh in a week of total torture. Once a month my girlfriends would meet for dinner - we called it ABC...Anything But Cancer. We talked about sex and food and kids and work and for one night I felt normal. No one said a word when I was pale or swollen or had my head covering sliding off...I just got to be a girl. Delicious. Take the kids! Seriously...pick a plan and ask them when (not if) you can take the kids for the day or night. My amazing friend Margaret took my kids every chemo day so we could come home and I could be sick in an empty house and Joseph got a night to just worry about me and him. Best gift ever. My dear friend, when it was over, picked me up and took me to a spa over night. We ate, sat outside, got massages...I felt so new again when I left. It was so much of what I needed. Talk to her and let her talk to you...this sucks, this is unfair - don't tell her about your Cousin Harriet or your Aunt Martha who died from cancer - or who recovered from Stage 4 by eating organic mung beans...she has read the brochure, she has talked to her doctor, she has googled...tell her she doesn't deserve this and she won't be alone. Remind her often that you love her, send her kids a fruit basket or cookies - think of the spouse, think of the kids...they are suffering too and her healing will depend on their well being. And thank you...thank you to those who never left, who accept I am still a hostage and I am healing slowly and to the ones who couldn't deal with it? Yeah, I am sorry too - for you. It was hard, I know but harder for me. For the next person who needs you, heal yourself and help them.