It has become increasingly obvious to me that there is so much love emanating from the people who surround me. This was initially difficult for me to adjust to – not because I have self-esteem issues and think I don’t deserve it, but because I have had to start learning to play a role different from the one I am used to. I am the one who takes care of people, helps people, fixes people, manages people; now I am the one who needs to be routinely taken care of, helped, fixed, and managed. The role reversal has been painful, and I can’t say I am completely comfortable with the shift yet … but it is clearly one of the lessons I am supposed to be learning in all of this. This is a lesson that has crept up at various points in my adult life, and I really didn’t learn it then. So, I get to learn it now.
At no point in this was I surprised by the lengths people have gone to give me support. Okay, that’s a lie. I wasn’t surprised with *certain* people: Kyana, both of my roommates, Nikita, Tyler, and family members in general. Even Garrett buying a last-minute plane ticket days after I told him was not really much of a surprise. I have been so selective over the years when it comes to cultivating and maintaining solid friendships, and I know without a speck of doubt that I have genuinely amazing people in my life. But I *was* surprised by the overwhelming support I have received from other people.
Take my coworkers, for instance. I would have bet an entire paycheck that the majority of them didn’t even LIKE me … and yet here I am, 2.5 months into treatment, and they have banded together to give me weekly cards, both homemade and Hallmark-made; annual leave donations so that I can continue to receive paychecks and health insurance; social outings; encouraging emails, picture messages, and blog comments; cool presents like Wonder Womyn Converse; and get-well foods, like soup and homemade soft pretzels. Jenna comes home at least twice a week with specific comments and suggestions from various coworkers, letting me know that I continue to be in so many of their thoughts. A group of them have even coordinated to attend a cancer fundraiser in April, spending hundreds of dollars on a table and making preparations to show up in themed costumes!
Then, there has been the support from family members. I expected it to a certain extent from my parents and my grandmother, but I have been blown away by the care packages I continue to receive from aunts and uncles – care packages filled with books, a journal, sleepwear, coconut oil, TastyKakes, homemade baked goods, a Keurig coffee maker, and childhood pictures that bring back memories I haven’t thought of in decades. Both of my parents have made commitments to come out and stay with me during a particular time in my treatment, and my dad has made it clear that if my job doesn’t work with me and allow me to come back, he will see to it that my mortgage is taken care of so that I don’t lose my house, too.
The love extends past coworkers and relatives. Care packages have come from non-family members, too, consisting of equally wonderful things: a puzzle book, a Wonder Womyn hoodie, chapstick and lotion for my chemotherapy-parched skin, gift cards, and more novels to read. In-town friends who fell out of my life have resurfaced; one in particular loaned me hats and scarves to help me while I transitioned to being bald, and another offered to let me pilfer her closet to find an outfit for an upcoming wedding (since both my weight loss and recent surgeries have drastically altered the shape of my body, and I have neither the energy nor the confidence to go shopping right now). Maya has taken so much time out of her days to chauffeur me to appointments, sit with me during chemo, get on my case when I am not making smart decisions regarding my diet, and supply me with naturopathic supplements to boost my immunity. Tyler comes over to help Renee clean the house when I am too weak. Melinda has gone wig shopping with me, tried twice to fit the wigs to my scalp in an effort to make them look more natural, given me oils to treat my scalp and aloe to treat my skin, and worked on a home improvement project with me.
Geez. Is this overwhelming enough? ‘Cuz I am not done!
I’ve covered family, friends, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, and coworkers so far, but there is one category left, a group of people who caused the most shock of all: strangers. People who DON’T EVEN KNOW ME have gone out of their way to provide me with not just verbal encouragement and validation, but physical resources as well. The featured image accompanying this blog entry was a letter I wrote to a womyn in Laveen, a womyn I met for the first time on January 27. She volunteers at the Cancer Support Community AZ, and she sat in on the orientation meeting I attended in order to participate in their program (free of charge for me and my loved ones, I might add). Upon introductions, I immediately judged her as being a little cuckoo; she had an overly chipper edge to her high-pitched voice, and she supplemented every statement or question with an eager smile. We East Coasters have a propensity for being a bit on the judgmental side, so my two-psychology-degrees mind was already thinking of potential diagnoses for this lady before we even sat down in the back room to start the orientation. However, *this lady* turned out to be not mentally ill, but genuinely high on life. It became apparent that she came face to face with death, lived to tell the tale, and decided to dedicate her survival-of-eighteen-years-and-counting to helping others win the same battle. *This lady* was not only kind and encouraging and helpful when I discussed my current issues, but she went out of her way to follow up with me later. She asked for my address. I initially worried that *this lady* was going to be the kind of person who showed up on my doorstep just to chat, and I would end up spending hours listening to yet another person inundating me with personally biased ideas about what I need to do in order to fight this thing. I’m so jaded. She did no such thing. Instead, I came home the following day to find SIX bags of fruit on my doorstep, along with a card that contained a thoughtful note, tickets to the Desert Botanical Garden, and a coupon for some popsicles she thought I might like. Who does these kinds of things for a complete stranger they just met a day ago?
Good people, that’s who.
I can’t wait for the day when I get to pay that one forward.