No seriously. Yes, yes, I have spent half the year fighting my way through breast cancer treatment.
To borrow a phrase “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
The worst part of the quote is quite obvious. So how is the best of times? Simple - people.
In 2015 I really learned what it means to be part of a community. I’ve learned how big people’s hearts can really be. I've been shown the true meaning of caring. Since being diagnosed, people have been coming out of the woodwork to help me and the boys. We have friends and neighbors stepping up and yes, complete strangers who have come together to support us.
Since June, when needed, there was meal train set up so that after a day of work or treatment or just inability to move off the sofa, we were always fed. One amazing friend has an amazing mom who got us a deep freeze so that we would have space for all the food given us and always have something on hand. I sometimes get a phone call about extra soup or baked goods and would we like them dropped off. The food has nourished our bodies, the meaning behind it has nourished our hearts.
I worked as long as I could, knowing that I needed a large buffer to carry us through the lean period of EI disability. I had planned to work longer but back to back hospital stays from neutropenia and pneumonia forced me off two months sooner. Even then, people rallied around us. One amazing group held an online craft and bake sale, to raise funds, many of these people are total strangers to us. Others just collected among themselves, wanting to help. I have enough grocery store gift cards to get us through the next couple of months, without using the last of my savings. I was blown away, I still am. And this was all done without me even asking.
Then there is the time people have spent on, for and with us. Watching the boys during my hospital stay made it easier for me to concentrate on getting well. Taking the boys out to run around and get rid of energy is such a great help. Or even working without us to find ways to help. Some of the best times are when people find ways to help me spend time with the boys without using up my entire energy store. Me being sick, having cancer, is so hard on them, and we really need to be together as much as possible. Plus I need them around me as much as they need me around them. Being able to sit on the bench at the playground and watch them while they run around with a friend is so much better than being apart from them. Even the school has been amazing. The teachers, principals and support staff have done everything they can to help while our life is turned upside down. I know that is rare and a challenge in a school with almost 600 kids. I’m rarely alone at Cancer agency appointments. One friend has provided a ray of sunshine to me and anyone else in the room during chemo treatments. I don’t think she even gets how great it has been to have her there.
For me, and many others, it’s hard to accept help but I’m learning, by need. I’m also learning to ask for help. The amazing thing is, I don’t often have to ask for help. It’s often already there, waiting for me to use it.
There are not enough words in the dictionary or enough time in the day for me to thank everyone who has helped. I’m not done treatment yet, but the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel is in sight. We are still being helped and will still need help, even after the physical needs are taken care of. I am blessed to know that help will be there. I also know in my heart that I need to “pay it forward”. I know the help was not given with expectation of it being returned but I also know that the joy, relief, compassion I’ve felt in this time needs to be passed onto other people who need help. Everyone should know the feeling of having the community that I do.