i was watching a segment of the ‘today show’ the other morning and it was about what to do for people who have been diagnosed with cancer. sometimes they really gloss over topics – a 2 minute segment before the next commercial – but this time they gave some ample time. they also had a number of people speak about what meant the most to them. it was absolutely what you would expect: the small things. a neighbor doing the dishes; accompanying them to an appointment; bringing dinner; playing a board game; just listening. and they were all absolutely right. some of the best memories – if one can have a best memory of the worst time of one’s life – were going for my pet scan with a friend/colleague who kept me talking and chattering and, sometimes, laughing while i slogged down a very large athletic bottle of some slimey viscous citrus goo with an iv in my arm and having 2 friends come over for a game of scrabble – even tho i could barely spell my name at that point, it was a take-no-prisoners game and there was laughter and i felt so fucking happy to be laughing. one other friend would go out shopping with me – like we did before and we still do now. i must have looked a mess. it made me feel more normal.
a lot of people drop off dinner or chocolate (i kid you not…i got a mountain of chocolate in the first 4 weeks – and i don’t care too much about chocolate – however, i ended up bringing in beautiful uneaten boxes of chocolate to the chemo nurses and they were ecstatic!). some were doing their good deeds never to be heard from again. and you know what? that was perfectly fine. i don’t mind one bit. i wasn’t eating anyway and there’s only the 3 of us so it was a bit much!
however, there were so many days that i was just alone. very alone. my husband was being amazing – juggling being with me, keeping his career somewhat alive, and, mostly, making sure that new-to-middle-school daughter kept on an even keel. he was everything everyday.
i have a suggestion to add to the wonderful little things above. when you have a friend or colleague who is diagnosed with cancer, do visit or bring a plate of cookies or a nice phone call. but at the same time, go to your date book. go two months or three months or four months ahead and mark your calendar to absolutely do something at that time too. everyone forgets how long cancer takes. diagnosis; rounds and rounds of tests and second opinions; surgery; chemotherapy and then radiation. from diagnosis in october to finishing my radiation in mid-june. about 7 months. for many people longer. someone actually said to me in march: are you still having treatment? yes. there is no fairy wand to make the time go faster. and during those 7 months there are acres of time that each person is alone. acres. mark your calendar. be one of those best memories for someone. even if it’s one of those best memories of a worst time. nothing is more appreciated.