This entry was written by Jeanne Egan, a breast cancer survivor:
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age forty-four, when my children were just seven and four. It was 2007 and we had recently moved from Washington, DC to a suburb of Philadelphia. I was a newcomer in my community; I could literally count the number of women who I would have considered to be a friend on one hand. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed. How would I manage? My parents didn’t live nearby and they were burnt out on children with cancer. They had just been through my younger brother’s battle with colorectal cancer. Of course there was my husband, but he had a very demanding job and was traveling quite frequently. I knew, from the moment I was diagnosed, that he would not be available to provide all the help I would need.
To whom would I turn? I am not the kind of person who is comfortable asking for help from others. I have always been “in control” of my life. But the idea of trying to take care of my children, managing a household and going through treatment was daunting. I quickly realized my only option was to ask my girlfriends, both old and new for help. In spite of my resistence to do so, I called my closest and dearest girlfriends one by one and told them of my diagnosis. Then I sent an e-mail to all of my friends, new acquaintances and family explaining my plan.
My e-mail was straightforward about my diagnosis and surgery. I explained that I would welcome any and all help. Quickly, quietly and with great stealth, a small “army” was formed. Sara was “Mess Sergeant,” coordinating all of our meals. Katie was designated “Chief Correspondent of the Breast Cancer Campaign,” taking responsibility for all correspondence and setting up a Care Page. Barbara was appointed “Lieutenant of Fun,’” a role she took very seriously as she organized lunches and events for me to attend with my girlfriends on the weeks I was off of chemo.
As I went through my surgery and prepared for chemotherapy, I noticed that I was slowly being enveloped by a virtual “web of caring.” Each women gave of herself so I could rest, plan and focus on my health. Reinforcements came each day. Whether it was talking to me about my treatment options, taking my children home for play dates, making a meal or taking me to doctor’s appointment, my girlfriends always had my back.
My oldest and dearest friends moved in to our spare bedroom, each leaving their families for a week to take care of mine. They shuttled my children to and from school, they painted my toenails and they did my laundry ( I know for a fact that my friend Laurie doesn’t even do her own laundry, so you can imagine my surprise when she brought a pile of clean clothes into the room where I was infirmed). At night, they fed my children the meals that had been provided and read them bedtime stories. I also enlisted the help of three Villanova University students right after my diagnosis. They were all roommates and basically spent every afternoon at our house as the year wore on, becoming “big sisters” to my children as the year wore on. They played many a board game and numerous hours of red light green light in our basement after school.
Every one of the women who helped me during these months shaped the decisions I made throughout my breast cancer journey. Whether it was which type of surgery to choose what type of wig to buy or what foods to eat during chemo, they would inevitably provide me with an answer. Because of their caring and consistent support I felt a responsibility to get well and try to stay well.
Want to learn more about Jeanne? Check out her blog!
If you need to talk to another survivor, call our Survivors’ Helpline at (888) 753-5222. Visit lbbc.org to learn more about the programs and services we provide. And of course, continue the conversation & network with others on our Facebook Page.