Paying it Forward

This entry was written by one of our volunteers:

As I write this, it is 10 years ago today that I had my lumpectomy.  The surgery was one week before Thanksgiving, which is the big holiday in our family.  For more than 30 years we had hosted a large group at our table.  Preparing that big dinner so soon after surgery was a challenge for me, but everyone pitched in and helped.  The coping style in our family always includes humor.  My husband was telling everyone, “Remember, when we cut the turkey, say ‘White Meat’, not ‘Breast’!”

 One of our Thanksgiving dinner traditions is to go around the table and have all of us say what we are thankful for.  When it was my turn, thinking of the pathology report I had received the day before, I exclaimed, “I’m thankful for clean margins and negative nodes!”

 During that time, between diagnosisand surgery, after the lumpectomy, then through the months of chemotherapy and radiation that followed, so many people around me extended themselves countless times in an incredible variety of ways.  My family and friends were generous in bringing us meals, taking me to treatment, sending flowers, notes and gifts.  Each and every one of them touched me in a different way.  They came to visit from near and far. Three of my visitors traveled from as far away as Boston and Dallas!

 In one of the many books about breast cancer that I read shortly after diagnosis, I found this tip:  make a list of things I needed and keep it relevant and handy.  Then when someone said, “What can I do to help?” I would have a ready answer.  Some examples were to have someone return a library book, stop by for a cup of tea, pick up an item at the grocery store.  It made them feel good to do something that was helpful and that I actually wanted or needed.

 My chemotherapy lasted six months and in the middle of that treatment I had the six weeks of radiation at a different facility.  You can imagine how I was dragging, especially on the days when I had to go to both.  Friends and family who took me to treatment during that time generously gave me help and support.

 Someone once asked me what was the most helpful thing anyone had done for me.  After reflection, I answered that it was the variety of all the different things people had done.   Thinking of how much everyone did to help, support and comfort me during my treatment still fills me with a warm glow.

 In the 10 years since, several people in my life have been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.  Each time I have reached out with whatever support I could give.  Following the example of the many who had been there for me, I called, visited, gave gifts, sent emails, went along with them to doctors appointments and treatment, brought food, ran errands. 

 Now, as I approach Thanksgiving 10 years later, I reflect on how thankful I am for the wonderful people I am lucky to have in my life.  They buoyed me through my treatment and in the years since.  And I wonder:  is there any way that I can repay them for all the kindness, help and support they have given me?  Or perhaps the best way to thank them is to “pay it forward” and do for others what they so generously have done for me. 

 What are you thankful for? Leave a comment or share your story on our Facebook Page.

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