I’m here for you. And not in the Seinfeld way. I’m here for you just to make you feel better with no ulterior motive whatsoever. I’m not even going for the ‘Mother Freakin Teresa’ moniker right this second. I’m here because you need me. You may not know it yet, but I do…because I’ve been there, done that.
I know you need me because I needed ME when Steven and I were going through our initial hazing and rush week of Phi Beta Lymphoma. We didn’t have anyone to be our pep squad, our own personal “Hints from Heloise” or the wise family elder to calm and settle us down. We were like two survivors in a life raft floating in the middle of the ocean trying to decide if we should drink the sea water or our own pee. In other words, our choices all seemed unsavory and we didn’t really have anyone to turn to.
One of the most important hints that Dr. Sprawls (our oncologist, for you newbies) gave us was to watch out for helpful people who wanted to talk about cancer. He elaborated briefly by explaining that a LOT of people would want to talk about their experiences with friends or relatives who had gone through treatment. His advice was simple. “Immediately interrupt them and ask if the story ends in a funeral home. If it does, thank them, cut them off and move on.” I thought that was weird at first, until I realized that he was right. As he explained, those people think they are helping you, but they’re really still trying to work out their own issues. Let them pay a shrink. You’ve got enough on your plate right now.Here is another hint. Don’t rely on people with young kids. They’re like lepers. Kids get “kid cooties” all the time. They are minor to the kids, resulting in colds, coughs, yucky tummy and the like. Those cooties turn in to a weekend in the hospitals’s solitary confinement ward for the chemo patient. And just because the kids aren’t around, don’t get fooled. The parents, grandma who babysits and the casserole of rice pudding that got sneezed on in the car ride over can all be carriers. Sadly, we didn’t even get to see our daughter very much. Her part-time job during college was at Walt Disney World. She worked with Cinderella, and Belle and Ariel – if you know what I mean. All of those princesses are a huge draw for the germ laden autograph pens of runny nosed princesses-to-be. Let’s not even imagine what might be going on in Pluto’s head! (Literally speaking, I mean IN his head! If you can read between the lines, now you know that all jobs start in the mail room, so to speak).
So now that you know you have to be on guard, know that there are also a million safe and secure places to get help. The Livestrong website and organization is fabulous. They have workbooks, free to cancer patients, that will show you how to organize your treatments, tests, insurance and tons of other tips. There are a zillion blogs to help you feel like you have back up. Hitting too many medical sites might actually confuse you. If you want to do extra research, be cognizant that sometimes you’ll read something contrary to your doc, so be careful there. Wait until you have a plan with your primary caregiver overseeing your treatment, and then hit the web reading up on only the supporting tips. Otherwise you could be overwhelmed. The Three’s Company chick, for instance! If you have faith in your medical doctor and are happy with your plan, don’t get bogged down with cures made up of nuts, berries, chants and sweat lodges. I’m a firm believer in both holistic and medical approaches, so don’t take this in the wrong way, but I’m pretty sure that gnawing on a tree is not going to cure your cancer.
Not that all herbal remedies are wrong either. I checked with some of my herbalist friends and books and there were all kinds of teas and aromatherapy hints, chewing on candied ginger and host of other ideas to help with settling the stomach, soothing the mind and helping the positive energy. Don’t be surprised by the grandmas that suggest hunting down the wacky weed either. I was shocked at first, but then I realized that these grandmas were the right age to have attended Woodstock, so they had a point of reference. However, keep in mind that the patient is not the one who has the energy to go out to make the transaction. If the caregiver is new to that lifestyle, this is NOT the time to start looking for a connection. Landing in jail really puts the kibosh on the quality of care you can provide. It would probably be easier to move to California than to find a bail bondsman if you’re unfamiliar with that lifestyle!
My bad boobie buddy had a lumpectomy last week and it looks good. (The results, not the boobie) Now it’s radiation time and then we’ll see. That has made me realize that once you’ve taken this ride, even if you just watch someone else doing it, you still feel like you just got off Spaceship Earth. A little green around the gills with your stomach flip-flopping around. So this time I’m trying to keep a clearer head and catalog some of the info I forgot that I know.
Keep positive. Laugh as much as you can and keep your problems at arms distance, they’ll still be there later and you can deal with them then. Try to pay your bills on time, but if you can’t guess what? They’ll send you another! Try not to sweat the small stuff. And right now everything else is small stuff.
And then there’s me. The Mother Freakin’ Teresa of Lymphoma. Stop by for a chuckle and a cheer any time. I’m here for you.
Fun Fact of the Day: It was seven years ago when we went through Steven’s “almost killed him” chemo. Today is his birthday. Ergo, I MUST be good at this because he’s still here! And even with the chemo brain, the one thing he’ll always remember is that I love him. How great is that!