I am a 2-time cancer survivor. I first had gynecological cancer while I was pregnant with my son, and then, had a recurrence a few years later. I am very happy to say I have been cancer free for over 10 years. That doesn’t mean I don’t remember the horror and terrible fears that I had while sick but having the support of my friends and family made it easier to bear. It’s hard enough knowing that you’re fighting for your life during regular times but fighting during a worldwide pandemic must be like living in a war zone. May of the treatments for cancer, like chemotherapy and radiation wreck your bodies immune system by design so that it can fight cancer cells. Knowing that there are deadly virus cells lurking possibly everywhere must be terrifying.
My friend, Linda was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s been so brave and positive about the whole thing- undergoing treatment now so that she can eventually have surgery. She said that one of the things that helps her along is our wacky group. Before Covid-19, we made sure that she was never alone during a treatment- there was always someone there with her to chat, or if she didn’t feel like chatting, just to hold her hand or be there. Now, it seems as if it’s a fight she has to fight alone. No one else is allowed in the hospital treatment centers but her. She said that it’s hard enough knowing how susceptible she is to infection but going into a hospital right now is terrifying. How can it not be? We can’t go grab her kids, or sit with her, or give her a hug at a time when we all need one.
Having cancer changes you. It takes away so many things. Your health, your energy, sometimes your hair and parts of your body. You get chemo brain, and it’s a real thing. Breast cancer seems to find ways to attack a woman’s most vulnerable areas. You not only often lose your hair and eyebrows, you get swollen form steroids, you may have contractures from radiation, you’re exhausted, you can lose your one or both of your breasts, and even having it “replaced” isn’t the same. Cancer in normal times takes so much from someone but now it almost seems unbearable because it tries to take away your support system. My friend is a at point where she needs to be surrounded by friends and positivity, even when everyone has to embrace “social distancing”. What can we do to help?
- We made a meal chain, but with gift cards for places that will deliver right to her front porch.
- We help “distance learning” her kids with Skyping and helping keep her kids on track whenever she needs a hand.
- We drop off crafts that the kids can handle with little supervision.
- We have Netflix watch parties with the whole family can watch and no one notices if she nods off to sleep from exhaustion.
- We’ve planned a “last chemo” celebratory car parade with lots of signs, balloons, and noise past her house after the last treatment with signs and balloons and
- We researched wigs and found one to send to her since salons are closed. We also found a ridiculous one for her because it suits her personality and she’d rock it .
- We got information for her on areola tattooing. Reconstructive surgery doesn’t’ always include an areola. It can be tattooed on, however insurance doesn’t cover it. We found out that Rose Marie Beauchemin Verzella offers it for free (and trains others to do it) so we started the process on helping her regain her body the way she wants it.
- We sewed her some kinda ugly but made with love face masks so that she is safer when she is out.
- We have Zoom get-together for whatever she needs. To laugh, to cry, to just sit and be, so that she knows she’s not alone.
- We let her know that she may be by herself but she is never alone.
These stay home shutdowns are hard enough without cancer and all it entails breathing down your neck. With people everywhere sheltering in place and having to hide behind face masks and gloves staying 6 feet apart, and I'm glad we fgound ways to gather around her and surround her with love and support.