You know, I freakin’ well hate cancer.
Just the day before my mother died, I received an email from a dear
friend. A shocking, horrible email. You see, my friend’s husband has
cancer. Brain cancer. And on July 24, I got the news that it seems to
be coming back, just a few short weeks after the initial surgery to
remove the tumor, and before he had even started chemotherapy.
And this kind of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme, it’s bad. When I looked it
up on Wikipedia I was shocked to read that all treatments for this
cancer are considered palliative. In other words, the treatments are
not curative but may offer patients a little bit more time and some
relief from devastating symptoms.
I can’t begin to tell you about the sadness I have for my friend and her
family. They are one of the best-suited and happiest couples I know.
They have two young children. They should not have to go through this.
But, as I learned through my mother’s cancer journey, this disease and
it’s progress is out of anyone’s control. If you or someone you love
gets cancer, you have to live with it. Fight it. Accept it. You can’t
I learned some other things, while my father, sisters and I held my
mother’s hand during her own cancer journey. I learned things about the
nature of family and friendship. About what support means to the people
taking the journey. About what kinds of things to say and do to help
ease the journey, even just a tiny, little bit. People who I knew and
grew up with (my mother-in-law, cousins, Aunts & Uncles) helped so much. They brought
us meals, they visited faithfully, they listened and they hugged.
People I barely know or have never even met brought food and wine,
offered support online and even offered the use of their homes and cars
when we needed places to stay and ways to get around.
I’ll never forget the generosity of the people around us during that
difficult journey, and I have been searching for a way to adequately
thank them all for their generosity. And I think I know how, now. Of
course, there’s no way to pay back that kind of generosity, so my way
of saying thank you to everyone who was there for me and my family is
to pay that generosity not back, but forward.
So the day after I returned home to Calgary (after over two months with
my family in Ontario), when I did our family’s grocery shopping, I
bought a little bit extra. And today I made up a few extra meals, and a
dozen cookies. I bought two bottles of wine. I’ll be dropping by my
friend’s house this evening with some food so that she doesn’t have to
think about what to make for dinner one day when she gets home from the
hospital hungry and exhausted. And I’ll offer to share one of the
bottles of wine when she has the time and the inclination to talk. I’ll
take her kids off her hands for a few days, so she can sit at her
husband’s side and not worry about arranging care for them.
In other words, I’ll do all the things that my generous family, friends
and internet buddies did for me. I’ll pay it forward. Willingly.