Tag Archive | support system

Cancer Camaraderie

Well today I was fortunate enough to attend the “Celebration of Life” luncheon given in recognition of the 25th Annual National Cancer Survivors Day, given by the The Cancer Program at the hospital I receive my treatment from.  I really wasn’t sure what it was going to be like but the keynote speaker looked interesting, I was available, and it was free.  I hadn’t invited anyone to go with me because I wasn’t real sure what the whole thing was going to be like.  On the way there a major road I needed to access was closed at the entrance ramp and detoured me in the opposite direction.  Upon finally getting turned around all three lanes went into one and I found myself sitting in traffic thinking I would be very late.  I was ready to turn around and just come home but I am so glad I didn’t.

Upon arriving I assumed there must be other functions going on with all the cars and people dressed up.  I was greeted warmly at the door and to my surprise there were no other functions going on.  The place was filled with 700 people, mostly cancer survivors, some doctors and staff, and some friends.  Remember I said I came alone?  At this point it was easy to find seating for one and just look for an empty seat.  I tried to pick a table of women around my age and sat down.  A waitress took my order and when the food was served I had a delicious salmon dinner.

The speaker was a comedian who was also a juggler and an author but more importantly is a 20 year cancer survivor.  His message on surviving with a positive attitude was filled with jokes that especially appealed to anyone who has undergone cancer treatment and dealt with hospitals and doctors.  We laughed repeatedly.  He even entertained us by juggling.  We all received a copy of his book to take home as well.  I was so impressed that even in a room of 700, my oncologist recognized me, came over, called me by name and welcomed me!

As much as I enjoyed and appreciated a free luncheon with a delicious meal and entertainment, I enjoyed even more getting to know the women at my table.  I think within a few minutes after a round of introductions we all felt so comfortable with each other that it seemed like we had known each other for years.  A mixture of ages and races didn’t separate us.  It was like the “Sisterhood of the Traveling IV’s.”  We shared our stories with each other and had a common thread.  We could easily relate to each other and laughed at similar experiences.  We all agreed to come again next year and sit in that same area of the room to find each other.

I find this is true not just with strangers I meet that are cancer survivors, but even with acquaintances I already had.  Once I was diagnosed, I immediately sought out others that I knew who had been through a cancer diagnosis and treatment and felt a certain kinship that wasn’t there before.  I think this happens because until you receive a cancer diagnosis yourself, it’s hard to know exactly what that feels like.  For those of you who are fortunate enough to not have received a cancer diagnosis, you’re unfortunately not part of our club!

2 Corinthians 1:4  says, “He (God) comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” (The Message Version)  Hebrews 4:15 says, “ For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (NIV)  We all need each other and it’s so important for us to encourage one another, especially when you can totally relate and understand what someone else is going through.

My hats (and hair) off to others in my cancer kinship club!  We will survive!

Sitting on a rock, the need for support

I honestly don’t know how I would be doing today if it wasn’t for a great support system.  I am so thankful for both family and friends for all they have done for me through this trial.  Just knowing not only that others care about you and are concerned, but have taken the extra step to actively do something means a lot.

Going back to March when I had my surgery and was out of work for two weeks recovering, I had my parents stay with me for awhile.  When they left, I had friends fill in and bring me meals and run errands, etc.  With each chemo infusion again I had my parents take me and stay with me.  Again, friends took over and brought meals for me and my family and offered to do errands.  I had numerous people call and check in on me.  I received cards and gifts in the mail, many from those that lived far away.   So many of them have prayed and continue to pray for me.  I feel so blessed to be surrounded by these people who genuinely care.

What is “support”?  In a plant, the stem is the support, the foundation or prop for the plant.  Without it, the branches, leaves and fruit would not be held up.  In other words, it would be worthless.  One definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary for support  is “to keep something going.”  I know that in order for me to have been able to keep going through this trial of breast cancer, I have needed support.

Receiving support has not been easy.  For me, I like to be on the giving end.  I like to be the one  offering support, helping and encouraging others.  This has been hard for me to be on the receiving end and to say “yes” to offers.  I am usually the one in charge.  It has been a humbling experience but one for which I have been most grateful and appreciative of.  There are times in life when we need to just give in and receive the blessing and allow others to be blessed by being on the giving end.

I think of a battle that happened hundreds of years ago between the Israelites and the Amalekites in Rephidim.  Moses sent Joshua and his men to fight and he climbed a hill to watch.  During the battle as long as Moses’s hands were lifted with the staff of God, the Israelites were winning.  Whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.  When Moses got tired he sat on a rock and Aaron and Hur (his buddies) stood next to him on each side and supported his hands until sunset.  Joshua ended up defeating the Amalekites. (see Exodus 17)

We get tired and weary and begin to feel defeated sitting on that rock while the battle rages on in. You may feel helpless as you watch it happen before your eyes.   During the battle, whatever that may be for you, we need the support of others to see us through!  Notice that Moses’ hands were not empty either.  Not only do we need others supporting us but we need to be holding on to God.  It has been first my faith, and second my support system, that has gotten me through this trial so far.

They not only prayed for me, they sent postcards telling me they prayed!

Perhaps you know someone personally going through some sort of trial that looks like they could use support.  Even if you don’t know them that well, don’t be afraid to not only offer help but take the next step and just do something you feel led to do.  I REALLY appreciated all the offers and know that they were sincere.  Like I said, it’s hard for some of us to take people up on an offer if you’re use to being on the giving end.  Most of the time, other than meals, I would say “no”  unless there was a real need for a ride or something.  However, sometimes the “offer” happened…it wasn’t asked.  For instance, I was concerned about my family eating.  I had no appetite, no energy to cook, no taste buds, and didn’t even want to be in the kitchen.  Knowing that my family was being fed and that I didn’t have to do it was a tremendous help.  Then there were the times that someone would simply show up on my doorstep with containers of homemade soup or other healthy food just for me.  It was all I could get down for several days and it would tide me over until I could eat normally again.  Would I have asked for it?  No.  Would I have said “yes” if someone asked?  No.  I never wanted someone to go out of their way and was concerned only about my family.

Some practical things you can do is send a card and let them know you are thinking about them, that they are not alone, that you’re praying for them, etc.  In this day and age technology has taken over.  It’s nice to get an email or a post on Facebook but it’s even nicer to get a card in the mail.  Who doesn’t like mail, something you can look at over and over.  I even received letters and a poem written just for me!  Surprise gifts in the mail were very exciting too knowing that someone went out of their way and took the time to purchase something, package it up, and take it to the post office because they cared for me! some of my surprises were “breast cancer” related and a portion of the purchase supported breast cancer.  I even had someone pay for my wig, they insisted!  If you bring a meal to someone, bring it in a disposable container so they don’t have to keep track of who it belongs to and remember to get it back to them.  I had people even bring me disposable plates and utensils so we wouldn’t have dirty dishes to clean after the meal!  Often they included extras such as salad dressing, bread, and dessert.  Offer to pick up a load or two of laundry or better yet, show up and just take it!  Remember, the key is to just do it!  Take the next step!

Some of the gifts I received

If you are the one that is in need of support, don’t be a lone ranger!  Reach out, humble yourself and begin to say “yes.”  It’s ok to be on the receiving end.  Don’t rob others of the blessing.  You’ll get through it and then you can be on the giving end.  You say you don’t have friends and family?  Don’t forget you need to be holding onto God.  He is there with you through whatever you are going through.  Joshua 1:5 says, “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you.”

I dedicate this post to my Aarons and Hurs:  In addition to family and friends, I would like to acknowledge my church family at Christ Fellowship, Manna meals ministry, Bridge youth leaders, Prayer teams, Christian Homeschoolers of Union County, and my co-workers.  I do not want to mention any names for fear of leaving anyone out but you all know who you are.  You rock!