Rounding out October it only seems appropriate that as a breast cancer survivor to pen a final piece on what that means, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
As I pondered this column I could not help but think of all the other cancers which affect so many and while this cancer in particular gets a lot of attention- gratefully- there’s one aspect of cancer life which I feel should be talked about just a bit more.
The “aspect” I speak of applies to all cancers, cancer battles and those affected by the disease and that would be the families and loved ones.
Personally speaking I have to share the attention and support through our journey with cancer has been both touching and overwhelming. No one likes to hear of another’s cancer diagnosis. Most often times hearing of the diagnosis it’s easy for one to feel helpless, confused, sad, scared … the list goes on.
I remember all too well being on the other side, as the friend or family member wondering what we could do to help the individual or family affected by this not so uncommon disease. As I became a patient myself in Spring of 2020, more times than not I can recall requesting love, support and touch bases from those I love for my immediate family and closest friends. The ones who are up close and personal with the disease are the ones affected the most.
For me as the “patient,” yes there were days I was tired, uncertain, overwhelmed, but there was a plan. A treatment plan put before me each and every time by a medical team whom we trusted. For me it was simply going to work to bring a means to the end of a battle and it is indeed a battle. Yet for the loved ones who closely surround the patient, they must watch helplessly as the patient “goes to work.” Often times the ones who are faced with the constant question of how the patient is doing? Do they need anything? How much longer for treatment? The list goes on.
Not to be misunderstood, my position is not to discourage support and caring, but rather to encourage supportive conversation to the family and loved ones on the front line of the battle. Their mental well-being during this time is so incredibly fragile and their feeling of helplessness and fear at an all-time high.
During my battle our community of friends and family was very good to us, wanting to bring meals, groceries, whatever was needed. For a good portion of the three-and-a-half-years we abstained from allowing it, noting we were fine, but appreciative. That is until I recognized the bigger picture in this not so fun chapter of our journey.
They too needed to feel as if they were helping in some way and the visible outreach of letting them do so was beneficial to both my children and my partner. “Seeing” people take the time to do something for the ones lost in the diagnosis is powerful. “Feeling” the love and support of something as simple as a meal or dozen cookies is just good for the soul and there’s no medicine like that. Having people love on my family and support my partner during a time when I was anything but able was just as valuable in my journey as any of the treatment plans.
So what does all this mean?
Honestly, it’s quite simple. Month of recognition and reminder of disease are great. Remember self-check, self-check, self-check and get that mammo. But at the end of it all there’s nothing quite like human connection, caring, love and support- for the loved ones. The patient sits in the chemo chair thinking of a mountain of things (when awake); their loved ones are right at the top.
Remember the “How are you?” question of the loved one may be just as important at that time than anything else you may think to ask or do. Support of the loved ones is support of the patient.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 209-847-3021.