Because people are wonderful, I hear this a lot. People want to help me, and I’m so grateful.
When people are suffering, I ask the same thing: Anything I can do, please, just ask.
The problem is, I can never think of anything. This journey can be solitary and unpredictable.
Because it looks like I’m going to get a double-dip shitstorm and people truly want to help–and I love you all for it—I’m going to really give this some thought.
I’m going to start with what doesn’t help: The funerial stare.
I am plagiarizing from my high school friend Katy Hadduck, who is also battling breast cancer. I used the words “piteous stare” but I like her word better.
Nothing says “You are a mess and I feel sorry for you” quite like the funerial stare.
Have confidence in me. Even when I sink to a dark place, let me thrash. I’m mad and scared but I’ll survive. Don’t pity me. Please.
I love you all and I love knowing you’re joining hands and forming a ring around me, but sometimes I have to be alone.
Losing Dennis and now having breast cancer means I have almost no energy to give. I can’t always interact because it takes energy. It just does. SometimesI just have to sit and stare and something stupid on TV. Just let me be by myself. I’m O.K. I need to retreat.
Now for the stuff I simply loved.
My women friends totally get it. I have received certificates to get facials and massages and I LOVE those. LOVE those. It calms me, dials down my stress.
My friend Colleen has a nose better than Jackie’s and has given me perfume throughout the ordeal of being a new widow. She knows exactly what will smell fabulous on me. I dab it on in the morning, at night, at work. I love it. It helps me sleep. It helps me feel human.
My friend and pod-mate Lisa shares a bag of community-supported agriculture with me every week. I never knew vegetables were such a laugh riot.
Darrin, my Zumba instructor and an editor at the Star gave me 10 lessons as an early birthday present. I had no money and she knew I needed them long before my birthday arrived.
Those are the from-the-heart material things I loved. Now for the other stuff.
I treasure the people who keep me grounded in the present. Please, keep it up.
Tell me about YOUR life.
Tell me a funny story. Give me some good gossip. Share a saga about a woman who had breast cancer 20 years ago and is fine. Let me know what you thought of the last contestant who was kicked off “Project Runway.”
For now, I’m allergic to question marks.
When you ask “How ARE you?” it makes me have to visit my fear and dread when I may not have the energy to do that. Trust me. When I want to talk about it, I’ll corner you and yak your ear off.
I am not feeling safe enough to visit this new terror too often yet. If I have to answer “How are you?” too much, I start to feel worn out and depressed. I have to come up with an answer.
I also don’t want to give much data yet, either, because that, too, requires energy.
“When’s your next appointment? How did you find it? What kind of cancer is it? Do you have to do chemotherapy? Does it run in your family?”
Anything with a question mark requires energy.
Right now, I’m going to do everything I can to replenish mine. I’m going to baby myself. I’m going to get massages, get my nails done, eat some stuff I’m not supposed to, exercise regularly, watch absorbing television shows and movies.
I am going to suit up and show up to every appointment. I will endure every needle stick, every test result. I must keep my eyes on the horizon. I can’t look down yet.
Cheer me on from the other side of the chasm. I’ll get there.