Everyone likes to see a smiling face, receive a bouquet of flowers, or get a card that says "I'm thinking of you". When someone is going through cancer treatment, those small gestures have an even bigger impact. A lot of people think this happens often, but that's not always true. A lot of people don't do anything, simply because they don't know what to do or say. The reality is, all it takes is a small gesture to really make a difference in someone's cancer experience.
When you're diagnosed with cancer, you immediately wonder what's going to happen when you tell other people - will your closest loved ones do the big things, the small things, or nothing at all? You question how they will respond because you know life will never be the same for you or them - that space in time will change things forever. What will they do? What will they not do? Will they help or run? Will they give me my space or suffocate me? Their response defines not only how we feel loved and cared for but how we remember our lives throughout the cancer journey and beyond.
Now, I'm an oncology nurse. My journey to the "other side" had begun. Having worked as an oncology nurse for the majority of my career, I was extremely familiar with what diagnosis and treatment entailed. I knew it was no picnic.
I vividly remember the day I told my friend Colin, who was a former patient of mine that I had cancer. While I was in the hells of chemo after-effects, he came for a visit cradling a box of Popsicles. I was so exhausted and wasn't sure I had enough energy to talk, but he made that feel okay. We chatted minimally and he handed me a Popsicle. He said, "We don't even need to talk, I get it. Let's just veg out on TV." He meant what he said and his actions showed it.
Having Colin by my side was not only a comfort but an encouragement. I needed the love and support from others, lots of it, and thankfully I got it from many people. There's never enough positive things others can do for someone with cancer.
Here is a list of other small, wonderful things people gave to me throughout my cancer treatment, as inspiration for others out there:
- A blanket made by a 90 year old great grandma who, as I was told, "crochets and prays all day"
- Flowers from paramedics at the hospital.
- Cards from friends.
- Lance Armstrong's book, It's Not About the Bike.
- A Ficus tree decorated with yellow ribbons signed by my co-workers with messages of encouragement.
- Scarves my sister bought.
- A hand-decorated journal from a co-worker.
- Over 200 hours of the Hospital staff's vacation time (PTO) that they donated.
- Checks from my colleague doctors to help with medical expenses.
- Prayers from more people than I even know.
- One of the nurses/a co-worker set her watch at the exact time I was receiving chemo so she could send a healing prayer.
- And many more things.
The outpouring of love and help from others was incredible which helped catapult me into a stronger frame of mind to help battle the beast. As I look back at the road I traveled on the cancer journey, I realize that whether or not these people knew what to do, they all gave me love and help. It's not about the gift or the size of the gesture, it's about their heart and how it touched and helped heal mine.
What are some positive things others did for you when you were newly diagnosed? Share in the comments below!