As many of you know, I am about to start chemo to treat stage 4 cancer. I am actually sort of looking forward to it, although I know it will very likely be awful. It’s a mixed bag. It’s the one thing that modern medicine says could lengthen my life. Not surgery, not radiation. Chemotherapy. Once we start, there’s no stopping point. They’ve told me I’ll be on chemo for the rest of my life. And everyone has been very clear: it’s a treatment, not a cure. It’s possible that I’ll gain a couple more “good” years, so I’m going for it. In the meantime, I’ve been spending time with family and friends, doing some local road trips, eating out at some of my favorite places, *drinking iced beverages and eating ice cream, and basically enjoying every minute.
My oncologist says once chemo begins, I should expect a bad week, then a good week. So, I’ll make it through one bad week, then I’ll get a good week, right?? That’s the way I heard it! I’m focused on the positive. Please pray for me and for everyone dealing with chemo. We all know the side effects are hateful. I could list the things I’ve been told to expect, but I won’t, except for the one noted above – a sensitivity to cold. That’s a new one for me. The good news is this chemo should not negatively affect my heart function like breast cancer chemo. That’s a HUGE positive I thank the Lord for!
I’m getting geared up. I plan to be there at 8:30 Monday morning with my new compassion blanket (thanks, Mac and Terry!) and warm socks. With Bluetooth hearing aids and my iPhone, I always have my tunes and headphones. I’ll be there for five hours, then wear a pump home for a few days. I have things lined up at home, too, so I think I’m ready! Let’s do this!
It’s the next step in my cancer journey. Many of you have asked questions about that journey, so I’m going to try to work my way through the most common ones. Today, I’m starting with…
What Can I Do?
So many have offered to help, and it seems like everyone I speak to asks what I need. I don’t really need anything. I have the Lord, my family, and great friends surrounding me. I feel like I’m wrapped in a warm blanket. (By the way, if they offer a warm blanket in the hospital – take it!! Innsider Tip!)
I remember when a friend told me (nicely!) during my first cancer experience to get over myself and let people help me. She said others don’t have the ability to fight my cancer directly, and when they call or text or give me a gift or send food, it makes them feel like they’re fighting alongside me. I’m trying. I’m very thankful for everything everyone continues to do for us. It’s just hard for me to be on the receiving end.
I am concerned about how the progression of this disease will increase my dependence on others. I got a little taste of it when the colonoscopy (and then the incision) took a turn! I have a fabulous support network, but it’s hard for me to rely on others. It just is.
Glenn has always been a busy guy, doing his work (and more!) with a smile and encouraging words. If you’ve met him, you know that he is always working. He’s not a sitter-arounder. Ever. (Unless he’s sick.) Some have asked how to give him a break, and that’s something I’ve been pondering. Although I’m pretty independent right now before chemo begins, I know what’s coming.
I’m so happy that my daughter Kerri lives in town and comes in at the drop of a hat. Linsey came over one weekend to help out. The young one was home from college for a month and helped us. Kelly has taken the role of Assistant Innkeeper (and bonus daughter) to a new level.
Terry and Mac visited me in the hospital when I was not at my best, but they didn’t let on! They’ve spent time with me at home and away, and their gifts of companionship and other gifts are true blessings! Ray and Candy were at the hospital, too. They didn’t seem to mind marching through the halls with me holding onto an IV pole, sporting the latest glamorous combination of hospital gowns. Our neighbors have provided delicious meals. Mary brings our lunch dates to me, and we go out! Brittany (bonus daughter #2) provides support in a myriad of ways, from visits, groceries, calls, and texts to Snickerdoodles. Her son Parker has been taste-testing protein drinks for me since I usually won’t drink them but will need them going forward.
Parker was with a group of wonderful neighborhood children who came caroling one night, and I received a lovely tin of cookies baked by the children down the street. We have so appreciated the gifts of food, groceries, etc. I’m queen of the heat and eat world right now, thanks to so many! Another very kind friend gifted us with a Pere Marquette Lodge hotel package she knew I wanted to experience.
Those are just some ways we have been blessed since this diagnosis. I’ve said it before: I don’t cry about the diagnosis, but kindness really touches my heart, and that’s when you’ll see my tears.
Random acts of kindness can profoundly impact anyone, especially cancer patients, offering support, comfort, and a sense of community. Since several of you have asked, I’ll share some ideas of kindness to share – not just for me, mind you! For serving and supporting others – with cancer or without.
- Handwritten Letters or Cards: Write uplifting and encouraging notes. Share personal stories, inspirational quotes, or just kind words to brighten their day. Innsider Tip: Bonus points if you make me laugh. Follow the B&B on social media and comment and share to encourage your friends and family to come stay with us.
- Exercise Your Faith: If you’re a believer, pray. Share inspirational words and devotionals. Help maintain and increase my faith.
- Care Packages: I would have declined in a hot minute had I known what she had planned, but I use the wonderful cozy throw every time I get in the car. (I don’t wear my winter coat in the car, so Cathy’s blanket provides a level of warmth I benefit from, plus it’s loaded with encouraging words.) Warm socks, puzzle books, or comforting teas are other options for care packages. Consider including a handwritten note or a card with a positive message. Innsider Tip: I had a personal hangup with the pink items, including the pink ribbon logo, when I was treated for breast cancer. To me, they were a constant reminder that I was sick. (You probably won’t see me using a dark blue heart this time, either. That’s just me.)
- Meal Delivery: Coordinate with the family to provide heat and serve meals. Ensure they’re nutritious and easy to reheat, helping to ease the burden of meal preparation. Thankfully, my neighbors are excellent cooks – and know my favorite restaurants! I’ll never forget the lady several doors down who rolled down the block with a little red wagon filled with soup and hot bread when I was being treated the first time. I didn’t even know her, and she was bringing us food! Keep in mind that chemo often has serious side effects, including nausea, taste changes, mouth sores, etc. Many will eat only small meals, so don’t overdo it.
- Offer Transportation Assistance: Cancer treatment can be exhausting, and transportation can be challenging. I’m so thankful to be doing chemotherapy in Jacksonville this time! They lead with Benedryl, and I’m out like a light, so when I was in Springfield, Glenn was at loose ends for hours at a time. Offer to drive them to appointments or provide assistance with grocery shopping or other errands. Innsider Tip: I’d probably do better if you said, “Hey, I’m headed to Sam’s. What do you need?” rather than a global offer to shop for us sometime. Then let me PayPal you the money.
- Create Memories/ Companionship: Spend quality time with your friend. Engage in activities they enjoy, whether watching movies, playing games, or just chatting. This companionship can provide a welcome distraction and emotional support and help build new memories. I love to visit and share stories, and it’s a real source of encouragement for me. Innsider Tip: I love having company, but I might fall asleep while we’re talking – just ask Kerri and Jordan! For many, it’s best to keep visits short. When feeling unwell, it’s even harder to say, “Here’s your hat – there’s the door!” in a tactful way.
- Gift Cards: Offer gift cards for local restaurants, shops, grocery stores, or online retailers. This allows the recipient to choose items or meals they need or desire. Although I tried to decline, we had a great time with the “Pick Me Up” Applebee’s gift card from our terrific local Pilot Club. Diane talked me into it because they handle to-go orders so well. Ordering what we wanted and bringing it home to eat was extra fun, knowing it wasn’t costing me any money!
- Arrange a Relaxing Day: Treat them to a spa day, manicure, massage, or another form of relaxation. Cancer treatment can be physically and emotionally taxing, and an hour of pampering can provide much-needed relief.
- Make a Donation to a Charity in Their Name: Donate to their favorite organization in their honor, providing them with a certificate or acknowledgment of the donation. I may not want you to spend money on me, but I will always be happy when you spend money on others!
- Assist with Chores: Help with household chores or yard work. This can be especially valuable for those going through treatment and may not have the energy for these tasks. Innsider Tip: Gail suggested that she could gather a volunteer team to fill in on occasion when we have B&B guests. I’m seriously pondering this possibility to take some of the pressure off Glenn, Kerri, and Kelly.
- Create a Playlist or Other Recommendations: Compile a playlist of uplifting songs or suggest podcasts that can entertain and inspire during treatment sessions or recovery periods. Let me know your favorite family-friendly movies I should watch.
- Organize a Fundraiser: If appropriate – and with their consent – organize a fundraising event to support their medical expenses or provide financial support to the family.
That brings me to the next question…
Do you have a GoFundMe Page?
Many have offered to set up / donate to a fundraising page. I thank you for offering, but I am not comfortable with that. At all. (I’ll contribute to yours, though!) Although we’re not in great shape financially, I do have insurance through Medicare and Blue Cross. Tens of thousands of dollars seem to pass through every time I open an envelope, but many of them say, “amount you may owe provider $0.” Zero.
I’m going to try to keep working, if possible. I’ve always been a private contractor, so I don’t have retirement or other benefits, but I do have a nice hourly wage. I love the work I do supporting foster and adoptive families. I was working from home even before COVID, and I can basically set my own hours. My DCFS work has fit in very well with my passion for innkeeping. I hope to keep going – at least every other week!
Of course, we face major medical costs and other expenses, but if you set up a fundraising page, I don’t think I’d use it for medical costs. I’d selfishly spend it on myself. I’d want to use the “extra” money for trips to visit Glenn’s sister and Rachael, a new mattress, dinner out once a week, painting the house, or a new washer and dryer. So that kind of defeats the purpose! Ask Kelly. That’s how my mind works. If it’s not written into my budget, it’s like an unexpected windfall, and the money is up for grabs! California, here we come!
I’m sure others need fundraisers, and I am very thankful to those who have offered to set up and donate. Some of you have very compelling arguments against my position, but I really don’t think I should spend your hard-earned money to go tour Biltmore at Christmas!
In summary, always try to be aware of the individual’s preferences, sensitivities, and needs when offering acts of kindness. It’s also crucial to respect their privacy and communicate openly about the type of support they would appreciate most. Bless my kind friend Heather, the generous jewelry girl who took the pressure off me when she realized I don’t actually wear much jewelry.
I really, honestly, truly, appreciate ALL of your acts of kindness and your offers of support. It’s just hard for me to gracefully accept it. Insider Tip: I’ll probably always say, “No, thank you,” no matter what you offer. However, in my heart, I am very thankful for those who go above and beyond not to listen to me. It’s a mixed bag of blessings! “Don’t. Yes, do! No, don’t!”
Some of you have asked if I can feel that I have cancer, what kind it is, and if I’m in pain. I will answer those questions.
But that’s a post for another day.
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