When in cancerland, you need help. I am one of the lucky ones. Despite living in an isolated place, far from most of our extended family, they still managed to step in and help. I have a husband who is a partner and full on father. Thanks to his employers, he was able to take leave from work to help care for me and our children while I was in treatment. He has basically raised our baby and allowed me space and time to just rest or hide out. Which, for me, was what I really needed in the thick of it. He also accompanied me to 99% of my appointments, serving as my driver to and around the city, and my secretary, absorbing information way better than I could. Well, he and our baby, and despite to chore of dragging her along, she was a bright light for everyone at the cancer center. I really think we received better treatment with her there and all the staff came to expect her. Speaking of staff, most cancer centers have social workers or patient navigators there to help you manage treatment, life around treatment, and find support services. They are there to help you through it, and while I often felt like I didn’t want to talk to another person and schedule another meeting, they are a valuable resource.
I am grateful that my sister lives with us and she rose to super Auntie status fairly quickly, taking care of one or both girls and our pets when needed. She arranged her schedule to watch our oldest when we went off island for appointments (which is usually an overnight affair). And my mom, who had retired just before my diagnosis, was able and willing to come and stay with us to help, keeping our house and pets from complete neglect. Other family members also came and went, providing company, meal prep and needed distraction, among other things.
And then there is our community and friends, near and far, that supported us morally, financially and physically, too. You know who you are. Care packages, messages, cards, food, money, places to stay, BREASTMILK (I will devote a whole post to this later). All of it makes such a difference, especially in the low moments. And it is still hard. It is still traumatic and stressful. I still feel like the world is closing in on me sometimes. I can’t imagine how I would’ve made it through without all the support and I am so very grateful.
I recognize this is not the case for so many, even though it truly should be. Truly. Being in treatment is a hard job. Being a mom is also a hard job. Even if you are an organized person. Even if the side effects aren’t so bad. Everyone doing both should have at least one assistant. I encourage everyone in cancerland to ask for help if you don’t have it already. And be honest about what you need and don’t need. Life is too short to tip toe around the truth.
Finally, a quick shout out to my online support groups. I didn’t join until I was way in the thick of it, but even after going through the hardest parts of treatment, it has been helpful to dive into the community of others who just get it. To ask questions and share stories. And while it is committing time and energy to cancerland, and sometimes a downer, it gives me a healthy perspective on how it could be worse or better for me. I truly appreciate the willingness of others to be vulnerable and share and it is so comforting to know you are there.
p.s. Laurel was given a scholarship to Salmonberry School and Orcas Island Forest School this fall and it has been a huge blessing. I never planned for her to be in school so young, mostly because we couldn’t afford it, but I am not the mom I used to be and it serves us both for her to have a friendly place to be outside of home. It is so special for her to spend time in such lovely settings with her peers, and it has eased my parenting burden as I have some much needed time with just Daphne.
Love and Gratitude, all around.