While I look toward the end of this month and finishing chemotherapy it occurs to me that there are many readers who do not know quite what to do or say when their friend or relative receives a life altering diagnosis. The following are just some of the ways others have offered positive encouragement and help to our family:
- Sharing Your Personal Experience–I was surprised at how many of my friends have been through something similar. Naturally, those who had surgery 20 years ago had very different experiences but it has been very uplifting to hear from all the survivors, especially long timers, and know that there is a future.
- Cards, Letters and Books–Cards and letters are great reminders that others care. But they don’t have to be physical. In this virtual age e-cards and mail can be sent with a quick of the button. Getting any mail is always a picker upper. Over the course of all this I have received a good number of books. They’ll all be read eventually, but I have noticed some difficulty keeping focused so books with a one or two page story have been easier for me to read.
- Meals–This morning I got a note from a friend who wants to bring dinner over the day before my last treatment-what a way to celebrate! I have another friend who brings something each chemo day. Some friends have given us gift cards for “to go” places. No matter what, we enjoy not having to fix food every day. As one of my friends reminds me, “It’s easy, I just fix two meals…one for our family and one for yours.”
- Prayer–Immediately following my diagnosis we had friends email and call us to ask if we would like to be on their church prayer list. Shortly after being diagnosed one of our friends talked to our pastor and following church invited us to meet at the altar for prayer. This friend had lost his first wife to breast cancer and had been through treatments with his second wife. His empathy was huge especially for Bob who at the time was feeling pretty low with all this news. As believers we feel strongly about the power of prayer (even though we try to remember to pray “Thy will be done” and not “my will”.)
- Remembering the Rest of the Family– Bob also works with one gal who went through the same stuff with even the same doctors as me. She has been a great resource for him and a very good source of comfort as he sees her success 5 years later. My sis knew that I didn’t the energy to make Matthew’s gluten free snacks from scratch and and sent a gf cake mix she found (we’re having chocolate cupcakes tomorrow.) Other friends have stopped by or sent treats for Matthew. He enjoys getting things especially if its yummy…
- Unique Presents–One of my friends researched the treatments I would undergo. A package arrived from her filled with items that I might need during the next few months. As we unpacked the box there were peppermint candies and flax seed crackers for upset tummies and that would taste good, warm socks for the treatment days, mint tea–also for the upset stomach, a special neck pillow which turned out to be very useful following the surgeries, a book of uplifting survivor stories, and more. Yes, I could have bought all these things myself, but the fact that my friend searched them out holds great meaning. Another friend learned that I am fond of Butterfingers and sent over a very unique tree with Butterfingers tied to the branches. Yum… One of my Alaska sisters asked if I could use a Russian scarf. She then reached out to her Russian Orthodox friends and ended up sending 18 scarves that have all been prayed over. I have a scarf to match all my outfits. And speaking of my head… in the mail I received a hand crocheted hat that is warm enough to wear at night and cool enough that I can wear it under a scarf. Every gift is appreciated.
- Company–Several friends stop by each week. The timing for visitors is sometimes iffy…I generally enjoy the company and hearing about someone else’s life but there are days when I’m just not quite up for it. There have been times when a friend stopped to visit and ended up looking at Matthew’s stuff because I dozed off on the couch. But an understanding friend will…well…understand.
- And lastly Maple Long Johns–Okay, I have gotten comfortable with the idea that now is not a time for dieting. It’s been enough of a challenge to find foods that taste good and high on my list are maple frosted donuts. Maybe it’s psychosomatic… and I’m okay with it being all in my head. On the day after chemo there is nothing better than a nice warm donut especially a maple long john.
I’m reminded of a story I read long ago. A family lost a loved one and were busy preparing for the funeral when a friend stopped by. He told them he knew they were busy but he wanted to help and asked where their dress shoes were. He took each pair of shoes (the adults and kids) and polished them, then lined them up in the hall. When the family was dressed they were able to find their shoes and shiny and without scuffs. Helping someone during a trying time doesn’t necessarily mean spending lots. We all have gifts and talents to share with our loved ones.