Bridging the Miles when Cancer Comes Calling

This entry was written by Diana Lebleu. Diane will share a live testimonial on next month’s November teleconference: Cancer Caregiving: Support From a Distance on November 1st at noon EST. In partnership with the Cancer Support Community, this is LBBC’s first teleconference catered to caregivers.

I remember going to parties in college with my twin sister Denise. We fled the rains of the northwest to attend Trinity University in sunny San Antonio, Texas. We shared clothes, a car, and an apartment. We used to tell drunken fraternity boys that we were both ‘roommates and ex-womb-mates’. That line garnered lots of laughs and still has the power to make me smile as I recall the good times and the bad we have shared through the years spent together and miles apart.

I remember sitting in my living room in Austin as Denise shared with me the devastating news of her diagnosis with breast cancer at age 33. She was in San Antonio, 70 miles south of me and my young family, a veritable million miles away. Worse for me was the news that I was powerless to do anything for her as she struggled through the difficult time of navigating surgery, chemo, and radiation all the while working full-time and raising two young daughters with her husband. Our parents were still in the northwest and coping with the fact that their baby was facing the worst crisis of her life.

I remember the hardest part of my own diagnosis with breast cancer just 6 years after my twin’s was not coming face-to-face with my own giant. The prospect of managing my job of stay-at-home-mom for my four young children with no family not at least a two-hour plane ride away was overwhelming enough, but making the phone call to my mom 3000 miles away to tell her that her other daughter was now facing a Stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis was the only time I cried. For even though I was a middle-aged woman with my own children, when something goes wrong in your life, you still want the comforting arms of your loved ones enveloping you, patting your back, and telling you that everything is going to be all right. 

What happens when you get that phone call from your loved one two states away who has just been told “This is cancer?” We are such mobile people, going where the jobs, adventure, and yes, even the boys, will take us, far away from the familiar comforts of family and friends. The great news is there are so many ways to be there for your loved one without actually physical having to ‘be there’.

When a loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer, you may want to find ways to support her even if you are not living nearby. In this teleconference, Nora Jean Levin, Elyse Spatz Caplan, MA, and Sara Goldberger, MSW, LCSW-R,will explore the role of a long-distance caregiver and provide practical strategies for supporting your loved one. Registration for this FREE program is still open.

While my gray matter has turned pink due to chemo, aromatase inhibitors, and too many sleepless nights with children who won’t stay in their own darn beds, I still remember the great care my BFF Holly was able to provide me when she was in Budapest and I was stuck in the chemo lab (literally) and the real-time laughs shared via wi-fi instant messaging as I had my morning cocktail of Cytoxan and Taxotere while she enjoyed Hungarian wine four time zones away. Miles don’t have to be a barrier to comfort and care.

Diane, and her twin sister Denise.

3 thoughts on “Bridging the Miles when Cancer Comes Calling

  1. What a wonderful well written story. Thank you for sharing your feelings and your talent. I have Stage Four Metastatic B. Cancer and I often wonder if I am being to big of a burden on family or friends. You story has shown me that, I can let go, reach out and not judge any part of this journey. Again thank you. Sending warm regards and much love to you and your family!

  2. When I was told that I had a (life-long) brain tumor that needs to come out as soon as possible, I called my (5 older) siblings living 3000 miles away in another continent. After some discussion, they decided that Oldest Brother would be the best person to come to the States – he and I were always close, and he could take off from his self-owed small business. He stayed in the waiting room overnight – accompanied by Hubby, my In-laws, and several local friends/colleague – while the operation continued on for 23 hours.

    17 years later, my 2nd Sister came to our rescue when I was undergoing bi-lateral mastectomy for recurrent breast cancer in 2007. (Mother has had treatment for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma 9 years prior, and 2nd Brother would soon be dianosed/treated for colon cancer – so yes, there is a cancer cluster in our family.)

    They both had stayed for about two months before returning to their own families. And we wrote and talked over the phone occasionally. They both formed strong (yet different 🙂 opinions about my husband and my In-laws. They both agreed that I’ve got some very nice friends locally (who had given them rides, brought us food, provided company and comforted them…)

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