All during my cancer treatments, I was so fortunate. I didn’t have an unmet need. Friends would literally fight over the opportunity to bring us meals. Sally would post meal delivery dates, and usually within minutes, all the slots would be filled. Friends watched my kids so that I could go to appointments or even just take a nap. Cupcakes showed up at my door. So did hats, jewelry, magazines, books… We were so well taken care of at my house, I couldn’t have asked for more.
Sadly, I didn’t realize until a little late in the process that there was something more I should have asked for. I should have asked for help for those who were doing so much to help me. Clay is the obvious caregiver, but he was pretty well taken care of, too. (I sometimes wonder if he misses all the yummy meals and treats people would bring us, now that it’s back to me doing all the cooking!) But there were others who cared for me who weren’t as obvious. Luckily, Sally’s husband was able to arrange his schedule so she only had to get a sitter a couple of times to come along to chemo. But frequently she would spend the day with me, and as I returned to find dinner ready and waiting for me, she would drive the 45 minutes home and stop at the store to get what she needed to make dinner for her family. My mom, many hours away, didn’t spend her whole day caring for me only to have to cook dinner. Instead, she would spend my chemo days worrying—despite all my best efforts to convince her that it wasn’t so bad. Please don’t think I’m complaining. (In fact, I think Sally would probably kill me if she thought I was soliciting meals for her!) Lots of people thought of my friends and family! A neighborhood friend watched Sally’s little one while I was in the hospital so she could stop by to visit. Several friends showed up at the hospital to bring Clay lunch, snacks, and magazines to fill the day when I was in surgery. A friend’s cousin (who I’ve only met a couple of times!) offered her home for my family to use when they visited us over Christmas. A good friend of my mom met her for a special lunch while Sally and I celebrated at my last chemo treatment!
I’m definitely more in tune now to see the needs of a fellow cancer patient. I know the things that people did for me that really touched me, perhaps I’ll share some of those some day. But I think one thing that I really learned is that it’s the best friend, the mom, the sister who is the unsung hero. She needs support, too. The challenge I give myself is the same one I hope you’ll take on as your own. Of course, if I have a friend going through something like this, I’ll make her dinner, take her kids, go with her to as many appointments as often as she needs. But I’ll also offer to watch her best friend’s kids. And the next time I see a friend whose good friend is going through a tough time, I’ll do what I can to make it easy for her to be there for her friend. Sally would never have asked, but a meal or a sitter would have made her life easier. My mom didn’t need a sitter, but loved the distraction of a lunch date or shopping adventure on my chemo days. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Love me, love my friends.”