The Best Possible News

Just in case there is anyone out there who hasn’t heard, Cotton and I received the best possible news of all this past Sunday. I was still in the hospital recovering from the mastectomy and reconstruction when in walks our general surgeon, Dr. Markus. Now, if you have reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy, your primary care doctor during your hospital stay becomes your reconstruction doctor. Since Dr. Markus was our general surgeon, we weren’t really expecting to see him during the hospital stay. But hey, this guy is cool and we love him to pieces so his unexpected appearance was a treat. I figured he was just stopping by to say hello as he was dressed in Sunday casual – that is, gym shorts and a T-shirt. As it turns out, he was there to deliver RED LETTER news – he’d receive the pathology report from the surgery.

For those who aren’t aware, most women who have breast cancer will have a sentinel node biopsy at some point in time. This could be done as a separate outpatient procedure, with a port installation, or with the lumpectomy or mastectomy. When the sentinel biopsy is performed all depends on the individual circumstances. In my case, we did 22 weeks of chemo first and so the sentinel node biopsy was performed as part of the mastectomy. The sentinel node is sort of the guardian to the lymphatic system in the body. If cancer is trying to spread, you’ll find it goes first to the sentinel node and then reaches out its nasty little roots to the lymph glands trying to infiltrate other organs. As a part of the biopsy, Dr. Markus took not only the sentinel node but a few of the surrounding lymph glands, breast tissue from my “bad” cancer infected breast and some tissue from the good breast as well. His initial review of the tissue during the surgery looked good but of course, the pathologist is the proverbial fat-lady and no one says tissue is clean until they hear from pathology. Dr. Markus was reviewing his email and heard from pathology and decided that such outstanding news couldn’t wait for Monday.

EVERYTHING was clean! No cancer was found in the sentinel node, lymph glands, or in the breast tissue. In fact, pathology didn’t even find residual dead cancer cells in the affected breast! Totally clean, cancer free pathology report! I think Dr. Markus was as delighted as we were. I managed to ‘jump’ up from the recliner (well, jump might be an exaggeration), give him the equivalent of a hug, and kissed him on the cheek (keep in mind that I’m doing all this in my quite delightful hospital gown – I hope my backside wasn’t showing!).

This was the best news we could have received and the news we’ve been waiting to hear. It goes without saying that this walker I’m on for a few days during recovery is rolling on air!

So, mark the day on the calendar and write it on the wall – September 15, 2013 – NO cancer cells found anywhere! Thank you to all who’ve prayed and loved us through this journey!

I’ve talked before about Red Letter Days on this journey called cancer – you know days like the day when you were first diagnosed or the day

© 2013. Mary Kyle. All rights reserved.

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The Big Day

The big day has finally arrived. Tomorrow is the day I get my bionic boobs! Just kidding! They really won’t be bionic but I suspect that by the time the bill comes in, I’ll feel like they cost as must as a bionic body part!

I’ve been asked if I’m nervous but honestly, there’s been no time to be anxious or get nervous about tomorrow. The past two weeks have been crazy in preparation. Last week, we met with the plastic surgeon, Ned Snyder, and did the pre-op at the hospital. Monday it was off to have blood work, an echocardiogram and see the oncologist, Punit Chadha. We also did the final measurement for the trial program which was fun because, of course, there was NOTHING to measure! The tumor is GONE! (Yes!) I understand have a total clinical response to chemo is rare and I thank everyone for all their prayers. Next we were off to the pre-op visit with the general surgeon. Today, we made a trip to the nuclear medicine department at South Austin Hospital for some lovely injections of radioactive dye into the breast (actually, there were four injections into the nipple and that is a topic for an entirely different article – but hey, after three breast biopsies, I can do anything one more time) along with pictures to mark the location of the sentinel node for the biopsy tomorrow.

So, we’re prepared. The appointments are done, the bags are packed, and arrangements have been made to feed the dogs, cat and chickens. Cotton’s iPad and the mobile WiFi have been charged. The truck has gas. I’ve talked to my mother, sister, two of my brothers, daughter, grandchildren, mother-in-law, and multiple friends. I’ve sent out email updates on what’s happening next. Prayers have been said. We have a 5:30 a.m. check-in time and the only thing left is to pretend to sleep between now (11 p.m.) and 4 a.m. when we have to get up. We’ll have to be on the road by 4:30 and I think I’ll skip the makeup tomorrow.

Am I scared? No. If anything, I’m almost excited and looking forward to it. I know that may sound strange to some – that you’re looking forward to a double mastectomy and reconstruction. But, tomorrow marks the beginning of Phase 2 of this journey. Tomorrow brings me one step closer to my goal of regaining my health and life. Life is a good thing. Life is a sweet gift to be savored. Phase 2 is a tool that’s going to help enable me to savor and enjoy this gift called life for a long, long time to come. How can I not look forward to that?

© 2013. Mary Kyle. All rights reserved.

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Where Are You?

Where are you? That’s the question I’ve been asked by several of my family and friends. For my silence the past few weeks, I must apologize. The truth is that I’ve simply been in hibernation mode.

Even though I finished chemo, chemo wasn’t finished with me. That bad boy had 22 weeks to build up in my system and by the time I took the last treatment, I was not only sick but absolutely worn out. Add to chemo the fact that I continued to work full-time throughout the journey and continued to push to do as many normal things as possible, I was simply tired beyond reason. I had reached the end of myself. So, I gave myself permission to do something I’ve denied myself all these months – rest.

I know – shocking isn’t it? But, I actually rested. If I was tired after I got off work, I slept. Then I got up and went to bed and slept again. On the weekends, I said good morning to the dust bunnies, ate breakfast, slept, read books, slept, watched classic movies, slept, talked on the phone, and then you guessed it, slept some more. It was almost as if my body – and mind – retreated into a healing cocoon for the past few weeks.

I must say, the rest was probably the best thing that I could have done for my body and spirit. Little by little, day by day, my body has been healing. Am I 100% yet? Not at all. I’m sure it will still be some time before my energy and body return to pre-chemo levels. But, tomorrow will be a month from the end of chemo and every day leaves me a little stronger than the day before. I’m slowing getting back to normal. I made a trip to the grocery store for the first time in months. Who would have thought the act of buying your own groceries would bring such pleasure? We were able to have the grandchildren over because I’m no longer quarantined, and yes, the baby still remembered who I was! I was able to go back to church. Cotton and I had supper last night with friends for the first time in nearly three months. All of these are simple things and yet are a wonderful victory for bringing some normalcy back to our lives.

So, I hope you’ll forgive me for my silence. I’ve not been gone – merely resting – and relishing the little normal victories that are life.

©2013. Mary Kyle. All rights reserved.

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A Date to Remember

Every generation is marked by events which are either so horrific or joyous that the details remain etched as a part of our memory as surely as if they were engraved in the fabric of our being. For those old enough to remember, I doubt we’ll ever forget where we were when President Kennedy was killed, or the space shuttle Challenger blew up, or the Twin Towers fell. But, not all such life altering events are tragedies. Sometimes, such events can bring great joy. While I don’t remember, I can only imagine the thrill the discovery of penicillin brought and the millions of lives that have been saved in the ensuring years as a result. Or, the hope the polio vaccine brought to thousands of terrified parents. Some things you just don’t forget.

The same is true for cancer patients. There are some things we’ll never forget. The day we got the “news” that our lives would never be the same (February 28). The day the doctor first calls you NED (No Evidence of Disease) (July 3). AND… the LAST DAY OF CHEMO (August 15)!!! Can we say happy dance?

That’s right my dear friends, family and gentle readers, after 22 LONG weeks, chemo is finally over and done. You can write the date on the wall! Cotton and I are more than elated – we’re totally delighted! The first leg of this triathlon has come to an end and we’re in celebration mode. Now, how does one celebrate the end of chemo? Well, with parties of course!

While it may sound counter-intuitive to say that chemo is “fun,” we made the last day into a party to celebrate with all the wonderful nurses and doctors who’ve taken such great care of me the past 22 weeks. We started with cupcakes for all the downstairs team – receptionists, line draw nurse, lab technicians. Since they’re downstairs, they always get left out of the goodies so we brought the party to them. Of course, we had more cupcakes which we passed out to all the patients upstairs in the fusion lab. No celebration is complete without a cake and so Cotton bought a huge cake which just said party all by itself. The nurses were still eating on it when we came in Friday for the bring-up-the-white-blood-count-shot! IMG_1323

Ringing the BellBut wait, there’s MORE!!! Cotton bought me a bright, pink sequined hat to wear to the festivities. The “look” was made complete by gaudiest rhinestone tiara I could find on eBay (eBay is my shopping friend since I’ve been in quarantine!). Talk about turning heads! People definitely knew Mary was in the room! Of course, the ensemble was made complete by a wonderful sash (pink with camouflage trim) made by the youth Sunday school class at the little green church in Martindale. Those kids, their Sunday school teacher (Terri Garret), Sissy Taylor and 99-year old Mrs. Taylor (who sewed the sash for them) absolutely ROCK!! They even supplied me with fabric markers and all the staff signed the sash. It is the most wonderful and perfect keepsake I could have! Thank you!

The day was made complete when our very own person guardian angels, Joan and Leon Thomas, stopped by to hug our necks and share our joy. Joan is a dear friend and breast cancer survivor. I’m not sure I’d have made it through without all the long Joan-talks and her calming influence. They came to encourage us (you know, help Cotton push me through the door) on the first chemo and so was so appropriate that they were there for the last chemo as well.
What’s next? Well, we’re hoping at some point, after my white blood count is back up and I have a green light from the doctors to be around people, to have more celebrations with all the dear people that we love and have missed so much the past few months. In the meantime, it’s virtual party time and I invite you to share my joy and delight at crossing this milestone!

Next step – surgery so stay tuned for more!

PS – Even Cotton took a turn wearing the tiara before the day was over! A good time was had by all! IMG_1344

©2013. Mary Kyle. All rights reserved.

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An Unexpected Blessing

Monday, August 5, 2013.

Today, I received an unexpected blessing. It was a day for extra IV fluids and I have to admit that I almost called in “sick” to being sick. Going to the infusion lab isn’t always a happy event. Last week, I was set next to a lady who talked non-stop about how she’d had chemo 15 times in the last seven years and how cancer just kept popping up in new places and that she’d never been in remission for more than 11 weeks. It was as if the infusion lab were a stage as she verbally reenacted (with great relish) the last seven years to an audience held captive with no place or way to escape.

I felt sorry for her but also found her story oppressing – and depressing. It was hard for me to applaud her courage and bestow the sympathy she was seeking, because what I really wanted was for her to hush and quit talking. It’s easy for the hard stories to bring you down, especially when you don’t feel well yourself. It can be even harder to shake the hard stories and leave them behind when you go home. Negative energy on this journey isn’t my friend – and, I’m selfish about the kind of energy I surround myself with. Her story was so overwhelming that it left me somewhat depressed. As a result of the personal drama reenactment, I was still suffering a bit of the blues today. I really didn’t want to go in but I also didn’t want another trip to the hospital so dutifully showed up like the good little warrior that I pretend to be. I’m glad I did for an unexpected blessing waiting for me.

There, by the sign in sheet was a vase of some of the most beautiful yellow roses that I’ve seen. Now, you have to understand, I have a thing about yellow roses. The first Valentine’s Day I spent with Cotton, he took me for a sunset sail on Lake Travis. Among other delights, the cooler was filled with yellow roses. When he officially asked me to marry him, the proposed was accompanied by dozens of yellow roses. Of course, we were surrounded by yellow roses when we married. You might say that yellow roses are “our” flower so it was natural that the roses would catch my eye.

Yellow roseWhat attracted my attention more than the flowers was the note taped to the vase. The roses were a gift to each and every cancer patient there – a precious gift of beauty from a young woman who was a five year survivor of Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Triple Negative is the very same rare (and deadly) type of breast cancer that I have. When Berta presented me with my rose, I cried. I cried for joy for the life of the woman who has now survived five years because five years ago, there wasn’t a lot of hope for triple negative breast cancer. I cried for the survivor’s kindness in sharing her joy and encouragement for life with others. I cried for myself because the rose was a healing balm to my soul which has become increasingly weary on this journey. I cried for joy for the promise of life the rose symbolized.

I almost skipped the IV session today. I almost missed the blessing of the rose. Before I left, one more blessing was waiting for me. The woman sitting across from me in the infusion lab was clutching her rose tightly. You could tell she’d been crying – a lot. One of my dear nurses told me it was her first day and she was having a rough time. Would I mind talking to her? Me? Talk to someone one? Wow. No, I don’t mind. I understand. To talk and ease the burden of another is a blessing. The journey called cancer is hard – and can sometimes be overwhelming. You want to run – you want to hide – you want to curl up in a ball. But, instead you stand and with yellow roses in hand, you fight.

(c) 2013. Mary Kyle. All rights reserved.

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The Red Devil

Why is it that you can fool everyone, but not your mother? I’m reminded of the movie “Madeline” where the nun raises her hand and says, “Something is not right!” Despite the fact that there was no evidence or hint in the immediate area of impending disaster, she knew something was simply wrong. Mothers are like that too. They don’t need to see the physical evidence – mommy hair simply goes up on the back of the neck and they know something is not right. Being a mother myself, and knowing about our built in radar and intuition, it came as no surprise when my mother called and asked the “Question” – What’s wrong? You’re not writing. I was finally busted.

The truth is that for the first time on chemo, I’ve met my match and have been terribly sick. Sick is most definitely a place I don’t want to go. On July 3rd, we started a new drug cocktail – the AC (Adriamycin and Cytoxan) drug combo. The “A” in the AC combo is better known as the “Red Devil.” I have to say it’s aptly named. The “C” drug isn’t much better and is known to cause little problems like bleeding bladders. All in all, the AC drug is a powerful punch of poison. Normally, this comes at the beginning of chemo, when you’re fresh with no cumulative buildup of chemo in your system. However, because I was in the trial, I’ve already had 14 weeks of chemo – 14 weeks of poison and toxins to buildup in my system – and that little Red Devil knew it and tried to kick my butt from here to Taylor Duck Field.

I’d like to say I won round one but since I’m basically honest, I haven’t found a good way to spin the truth in my favor yet! Suffice it to say that the first dose brought the concept of toilet hugging to a new level and I could have easily had a colonoscopy as my insides were most definitely cleaned out. Thank God this happened over a holiday weekend! By the time Monday rolled around, it took 100 percent of my energies simply to work. (Yes, I am still working full-time.) Writing, even writing enough to fool my mother into thinking all was well, was beyond the energy level at the end of the day.

By the time I had my checkup on Thursday (the AC combo comes every other week), I was already suffering from severe dehydration and they wanted to put me in the hospital – a kind offer which we declined. There are sick people and GERMS in hospitals – neither of which I wanted or needed! We compromised – the doctor let me stay home provided I came into the infusion lab for IV fluids. Cotton and I gratefully agreed. Saturday brought a new challenge with fever and a trip to the emergency room. We discovered the Cytoxan does indeed hurt your bladder and so treatment began to clear up another chemo caused problem.

Last Thursday, we went in for round two with the Red Devil and Cytoxan. The doctor has gone above and beyond in managing the side effects. They’ve tried some new meds and some different approaches to existing problems. It’s not perfect, but then, I wasn’t fully recovered from round one. But, I am better. I’ve held my own on this round and most importantly, I am writing again.

What’s next? Only two more AC drug treatments left. Number 3 comes next week and the last one on August 14. I’ll cross that finish line if I have to fight and claw my way across or Cotton has to drag. I’m still swinging at the Red Devil. I’ve bought a tiara to wear when I ring the bell. I’m still determined to finish the fight. And, I will write about it!

© 2013. Mary Kyle. All Rights reserved.

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Just Call Me N.E.D.

Just call me NED – Mary N.E.D. Inks that is. It has quite the ring to it don’t you think? You see, today, I was given a new name. And, I’m thrilled! I LOVE my new name!

Name changes happen from time to time. Sometimes, people simply don’t like the name they were born with and they rename themselves. Or, perhaps they’ve experienced an event so profound that a name change is the only appropriate action to take. As a musician and author, I know many public figures – singers, performers, actors, or authors – who adopt a “pen” or “stage” name which becomes as much a part of their psyche as their birth name. You only have to do a little digging to find out that John Wayne was born Marion Morrison or that sweet Kitty Wells was once known as Muriel Deason.

Other times, the change in name identity may be given to us by others. One band I played with for years called me Mary Lee (there’s a story behind this, of course, which I’ll save for another day). I have the t-shirts to prove it! And then, there were people whom God Himself renamed. For example, He took a tiny baby named Ben-Oni and called him Benjamin. Then, there was a man named Abram whom He renamed to Abraham. Most of us don’t remember Abram or Ben-Oni so much but Benjamin and Abraham are names most Christians remember well.

Today, I was given a new name – NED. July 3, 2013, approximately 10 a.m. CST: Mark it on the calendar – write it on the wall. It is a date worth remembering. Henceforth, remember me as Mary NED Inks. You see, NED means NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE and today, after 14 weeks of weekly chemo, that is the pronouncement my doctor made. Today was the day we officially measured the cancer tumor for the trial and found cancer wanting – as in, nonexistent. So, I am PROUD and EXCITED and THRILLED to now officially bear the NED – no evidence of disease – name.

So, just call me NED. It’s a name I intend to keep for the rest of my LONG and HEALTHY life.

Yeah, just call me Mary Ned. It’ll grow on you.

© 2013 Mary Kyle. All rights reserved.

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Rounding the Bend

Yesterday, I rounded the bend. I finished 14 weeks of weekly MM121 and 12 weeks of weekly Taxol. It was a red-letter milestone day. Next week, we start the AC drug combination. I’ll have four treatments, every other week. As of today, there are only four more chemo treatments. Four more!!! That’s it! Barring any complications, the finish line is in sight.

I was never very good at sports but it’s kind of like running a marathon. I can still remember the feeling of reaching the final curve on the track and seeing the finish line ahead – knowing that there’s only a 100-yards left to go and then I’m done. Or, better yet, it’s like the night I played my senior recital in college. That night was the accumulation of a years’ worth of preparation and practice – a night I’d dreamed of for years. I’ll never forget the moment I began the last movement of the Debussy and knew that in just a few more minutes, my goal would be reached. It was an exhilarating moment. That’s how I feel now – exhilarated!

I can almost ‘taste’ the end of chemo and am looking forward to finishing the first leg of the triathlon. Honestly, I never thought I’d make it this far. I’ve surprised myself. Thanks to prayers, God’s good blessings, my husband, daughter, friends and family, I’ve been lifted up and supported at every turn. I’m a little battle weary, sicker than I used to be, and recover a little more slowly each week. But, the finish line is in sight and I’m getting my second wind. I’m busy planning for the second leg of the journey – and pushing to finish this one. As funny as it sounds, I look forward to the next few weeks of chemo and I’m really looking forward to surgery. Both will bring me closer to the ultimate goal – a long, healthy and cancer free life.

©2013 Mary Kyle. All rights reserved.

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Someone Forgot to Tell Me I Sick

One of the things I told my oncologist the first time I met him was that I wasn’t “sick.” I mean, seriously, I didn’t feel sick and back then, I sure didn’t look sick. I liked Dr. Chadha right away because he agreed with me (I LOVE people, especially doctors, who agree with me!). And, while not “sick,” I did, however, have this little foreign invader in my body creating some unseen havoc. I say did because the tumor can no longer be felt on a manual exam. It’s gone and in my opinion – dead and buried never to be seen again, but I digress. In my infinite wisdom (or, perhaps in my quest to deny the reality that I had cancer), I decided I was not ill, but merely at war with cancer. Therefore, I’m not sick but simply a soldier and we know all soldiers get a few dings, scratches, and little battle scars from time to time. Everyone needs their badges of honor. The thought of being a warrior certainly works better for me than that of sick cancer patient.

The problem with my philosophy is the time spent chemo lab (excuse me, let me correct myself – it’s the “infusion” lab where we are infused with the poison of the day). I mean, there are sick people in the chemo lab and, well, someone forgot to tell me I’m sick! Now, I “try” really hard to be good when I go in there. After all, it’s kind of a serious and solemn place. Lights are dimmed to make it easier on eyes stressed by weeks of chemo. Sounds are soft (no loud radios playing here) voices are hushed, and cell phones forbidden. For the most part, patients sleep during treatment while the chemo buddies read books or watch television (with headphones, of course). Like I said, the chemo lab is a place for sick people which sometimes makes it pretty hard for someone who isn’t sick.

Oh, I try to be good and usually I am but no matter how hard I try, I’m constantly getting into trouble. My manager rocks and she lets me take my laptop with me so I generally spend my time in the infusion lab being a good girl and doing my work. But, there are times when I just can’t be good and quiet. I was the girl who was always getting my desk moved in school for talking and sometimes that girl still sneaks out in the chemo lab.

My wayward ways all started with Joan and Leon. Yes, my very own special angels and friends of nearly 15 years – Joan and Leon. Joan is a breast cancer survivor and comes every three weeks for a Herceptin treatment. I bribe the nurses to save the chair next to me for Joan. (Yes, Virginia, nurses can be bribed with cookies, farm fresh eggs, and emergency chocolate… LOTS of emergency chocolate!) Leon always comes with her and when you have good friends like that there, I just can’t help but take a “coffee” break from work and visit… and visit… which of course, means lots of talking. We giggle and laugh and have a real good time. I ignore the disapproving looks from the other chemo buddies. It’s obvious we’re having way too much fun.

Then, there was the day my daughter came by bringing me baskets of food to take home. (If you’ve never had Rebekah cook for you, you’re missing something. She’s a marvelous cook!) Of course, she came with all THREE of my sweet grandchildren. Four visitors in the chemo lab at one time! Ha! The little duly appointed visitor police nurses’ aide made a bee line to inform me I must limit visitors to one. No problem. I unplugged the IV pole and we moved out to the lobby. I can do that because I’m not sick. I was smothered in hugs and kisses and love. It’s a good thing to have lots of love in the chemo lab – even when you’re not sick.
Or, how about the day our bass player from the band (sweet Miss Linda Law) showed up to be my chemo buddy for the day and at the very same time my daughter and two of the grandchildren showed up. Boy did the visitor police get a workout that day. Again, have IV pole will travel. We moved the party to the lobby and before we were done, we had everyone laughing so hard that they forgot they were sick too. There’s nothing like a good laugh to make you feel better.

My latest escapade came when Joan and her niece Jessica came by. Now, Joan’s smart. She came bearing cookies for the nurses. The nurses let both of them sneak right on in to see me. But, wouldn’t you know it, that same little nurses’ aide came running just as fast as her short, stout legs could carry her. I knew we were in trouble when she braced her hands on her hips and started into the same old tired lecture. By now it’s comical and kind of funny. I have a mobile IV pole and someone forgot to tell me that I was sick. I hope the other nurses didn’t give her any of the cookies.

©2013 Mary Kyle. All rights reserved.

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How Do You Say I Care?

When someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, or any other serious illness, one of the hardest things can be simply figuring out what to say. What does my loved one/friend/sister/cousin need to hear from me? What do they want me to say? To complicate the question further, you may be dealing with your own fears about their diagnosis – what does cancer mean for them and what does it mean for me? One of my brothers summed it up best when he told me that it took him several days to simply suck up the courage to call me. It’s not that he didn’t love me. He simply didn’t know what to say.

If the truth is told, most of us don’t know what to say. Is it better to ask about the diagnosis and treatment or remain silent? What if I say the wrong thing? What if they don’t want to talk about it? No one wants to make the situation worse and unfortunately, the Dummies-Guide-for-Friends-and-Relatives-of-Cancer-Patients hasn’t rolled off the press yet leaving us to wade through the myriad of should I or shouldn’t I question all on our own.

After all the emotions die down, we’re still left with the choice – do we ask or remain silent? Will my asking help them feel better or worse? What do they need? The answer is different for everyone. What I need from you may be very different than what your Great Aunt Sally or your best friend, or even your co-worker at the office needs. Also, what I need from you isn’t going to be what I need from my husband or best friend.

But, if there’s one universal in all this journey called cancer, I’d say that we all need to know you care and that you’re there if and when we need you. Showing your concern and compassion can take many forms depending on your personality and your relationship to the person diagnosed with cancer. Because compassion comes from the heart, there’s no one single right way to show concern, care and compassion.

I’ve been so blest and love, care and concern have been showered on me in many different forms. Each expression of love and caring is as different and unique as the individual expressing their heart. How they choose to communicate their concern isn’t important. The important thing is that they do take the time to let me know they care. If you don’t know what to say or do, follow your heart. You’ll never go wrong following your hear.

Some things that have meant a lot to me.
Show me your sorrow. When my neighbor, Margaret, found out I had cancer, she stood in my kitchen and cried. Her tears spoke more compassion and healing that mere words alone could have ever conveyed. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.

Send an email. I have chemo every Thursday and every Wednesday night, without fail, I get an email from my mother-in-law telling me that she’s thinking of me and that I’ll be in her thoughts the next day. Every Thursday afternoon, I get a follow up email from her asking if I’m OK. Tiki could call me but knows that sometimes, I don’t necessarily feel like talking on Thursday after chemo. Email is a great way of letting your loved one know that they’re in your thoughts.

Send a letter or card. Believe it or not, people really do still send real letters and cards! Every week since my diagnosis, I’ve received a handwritten card or note from my friend Linda. Linda and I are both writers and the sending the card totally suits both our personalities. I look forward to seeing that familiar handwriting each week when I check the mail. It’s an encouragement to me.

Text messages count. Terri’s been a caregiver many times to friends and family members. As someone living with a chronic, incurable disease herself, she know that you don’t always want to engage in long phone conversations. She’s also full of life and the joy in any party so social media is right up our communication alley. Every Thursday I get a text message after chemo – are you ok? How did you do? What do you need? Can I do anything for you? She also checks on me every Saturday and Sunday because she knows those are my “bad” days.

Heal my heart with food. My daughter, Rebekah, pours her care into a very practical form – she feeds us. Once a month she arrives what a plethora of homemade (all organic and generally gourmet) dishes, packaged in portions to feed two and ready to tempt our tastebuds. All we have to do is defrost and reheat the delicious concoctions. You can taste the love in every bite! Cotton has become quite spoiled and while he’ll never admit it out loud, I strongly suspect he’ll be sad when the day comes that I resume my role in the kitchen. Bekah is a much better cook than I am!

Don’t forget to call. Cancer can be a lonely journey and it’s amazing how small my circle of friends and family has become. Sometimes, I just need to hear your voice, so call me. (Bekah calls me every day and Cotton and Bekah both call me during chemo.)

Unexpected angels. I’m blest to know a large group of older women whom I’ve dubbed doorknob angels. I find the most unexpected (and welcome) gifts hanging on my door knob all the time – a scarf, a brownie, flowers. Every little gift seems to arrive at just the ‘right’ moment. Thank God for the doorknob angels!

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