Sunday, April 26, 2009

What can I do?

Last week I found out a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer.

She's a co-worker of mine, but we're in totally different departments now, so I don't see her much. We occasionally jot notes to each other on Facebook. I do consider her a friend though in the fact that I enjoy spending time with her when I do, wish it was more often and would keep in touch with her even if we didn't work at the same company. My point is, we're not close close friends, but I do care about her and this news has been on my heart since I found out.

She was not the one who gave me her news. It was another co-worker.

I want so much to offer support to her, but I do not want to intrude uninvited on such a personal and undoubtedly devastating time in her life. I have always tried to NOT be the kind of person who says "I know how you feel..." but at the same time, I feel like I can at least maybe relate to some of what she is going through. The unknowing part. The where do I start - how do I start - to deal with this part. I think about how I wanted to find people who knew what I was going through and what I was going to go through to "interview". You know, like I remember really wanting to know what the "banana phone" looked like. I guess I just want to offer that up to her, if she is looking for that too.

The thing is, I know that my experience was mine. In so many ways I just don't really understand why mine was so different than what I have heard other's have been. It has been probably the biggest cause for the question "why". Not "why me?". Just "why" was mine so different. I don't understand. And I don't know if anything I would have to say would offer help or comfort to her.

I do know this. I believe it was more than my youth, my attitude, my support of family and friends, my faith, my humor...

As I have said - before I was diagnosed, I always thought being told you had cancer was the same as being told - your life is gonna suck from now until you die - and you're probably gonna die soon. My only experiences with cancer were all that. Pain, diagnosis, agony through treatment, loss of quality of life, and then - death. There was never any recovery. And on the one rare occasion I can remember that there was not - I was always waiting. It was not a morbid fascination or anything like that. It was just how I believed it would be. It was my life experience with cancer to that time. I was always asking, how is uncle Jerry? It never entered my mind that he could be "better". Living life. In my mind, he was always in a fragile state of being, at risk of being broken at any moment.

So, where am I going with this? Well, it's about stories. Real stories that made surviving and living REAL. I do attribute my own experience being a "good" one (comparatively speaking) to all of the above, but also to some dear friends who chose to share their stories with me when they learned of mine. Matthew. Heather. Sammy. Tracey. Nadine. Heller. I was in wonder with most of you when you told me your survivor tales. It wasn't just a matter of having hope (which, don't get me wrong, I have always had hope) but you made surviving be real in a way that numbers coming out of my doctor's mouth could not. You erased the myth that had occupied my mind ever since the word cancer had entered it. I see it in a whole different way now.

Hearing my friend's news broke my heart. But I feel like at the very least, I can offer her an "aura" of hope and positive energy and honest belief that she can add her story to the list of survivor stories I have.

Oh gosh. This is turning into rambling (but I think that's what this blog was created for :) What I wanted to end with was some unsolicited advise, knowing that these things will not work for everyone. Maybe they won't work for anyone else, but they are things that I found helpful in my own experience - and if they can help anyone else, well then, that would be pretty awesome too...
  • I was open with my diagnosis with friends and family - well, and pretty much anyone who cares to know. I tried to lean on them when they offered - and appreciated their company at each of my chemo appointments!
  • I blogged. I recently had my one year anniversary and I was happy to have a record of this time in my life. It makes me appreciate where I am now quite a lot.
  • I tried to "get ready", at least once a week. I found that if I felt like I looked as sick as I felt, then I felt worse! But if I got ready, I would actually feel better. This may be a given for lots of people - but when you have the opportunity to sleep til noon and hang out in jammies all day, sometimes you do! Lazy is as lazy does?
  • I looked for positive stories and resources and focused on those.
  • I tuned out the negative.
  • I listened to my body and rested when I needed to - but I also did "fun stuff" when I was up to it (and I did a lot of fun stuff!).
  • I laughed.
BTW, I sent an email to my friend letting her know that I heard of her news, how sorry I am, and that I am here if she needs anything. I know that she is surrounded by her family and close friends and lots of love.

You are in my thoughts and prayers J! - xox

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

J is in my thoughts and prayers as well Tommy!

That was a great list - I hope that you share it with J.

My list was similar, and I added that I kind of turned cancer into my "job." I researched it, I gathered up all of my test results, doctors notes, etc. I became very educated.

Hope that you are well. Good to see you blogging again.