Hello SOTGC community,
“In 2013, an estimated 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 64,640 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.” www.breastcancer.org
A couple weeks ago I was eating dinner out with my family, it was a Monday evening and we had one free night of nothing on our schedules. Even with a night off of our numerous commitments, it was still nearly 7:00 before walking in the door for the evening. The thought of having someone serve a meal and clean up the mess was so inviting, so we drove down the road to the nearest pizza shop.
Seated and waiting for our drinks to arrive, I heard my son Colin say, “Mom, Mrs. Harris* has breast cancer.”
Half listening to him, while also trying to engage in conversation with my daughter, I quickly responded, without thinking, “Oh that is terrible!”
Wait … my mind was catching up with what was going on, and I quickly rewound Colin’s statement. The entire time I was thinking in my mind, “He just said Sally had cancer! Did he really just say that?”
I replied back, “Colin, did you just say Mrs. Harris has cancer?”
He responded, “Yes, she has breast cancer.”
“How do you know this?” I asked.
“Mattie told me at school. They announced it at their church yesterday,” he said.
My mind raced in a million different directions. Sally is a neighbor, but not just any neighbor, she is someone that you instantly love and admire. A selfless heart that helps anyone and everyone. A role model of faith, integrity, inspiration, and grace. I was full of questions while also planning how I could help.
For the remainder of the meal I could not stop thinking of Sally. The woman that lives around the corner from me, the CEO of the Harris Household. Her home is always busy with her husband managing his medical practice, just sending their first born off to college, and having one in high school and two in middle school. She does not have time to handle this obstacle in life.
I brought myself back to reality and realized that I needed to ensure what Colin shared was in fact true. As soon as we returned home, I went to a private location and gave her a call. In true Sally fashion, I heard her sweet chipper voice on the other end say, “Hello.” At first I was thinking all was great, but I needed to validate what was tugging at my heartstrings. I explained to her the conversation I had with Colin over dinner, and she listened very quietly as I stumbled over my words.
Finally, I finished, and it was her turn to respond. She confirmed my fear that, yes, Colin heard correctly, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. We talked for a few more minutes and our call was over.
I hung up the phone, still shaken by what I now knew. Days later as I reflected back on that moment, I am in awesome wonderment at how well she composed herself that night. I realize that throughout our conversation, it was Sally comforting my thoughts and fears.
How can that be? The person that is still facing the unknown was comforting me about how she will get through this monumental obstacle.
This moment in time has made me realize a few things that I feel compelled to share in how we should approach a friend, acquaintance, or loved one during moments like this. But I must first give credit to Sally and her sister-in-law for putting this into perspective.
1. Know The Details – Avoid sharing information that is inaccurate or incomplete. Validate information with reliable sources to ensure you have the most up-to-date information. Most treatment centers offer a “blog” type of connection that is managed by one person to keep the general public informed.
2. Stay Positive – The person going through the illness is dealing with her own emotions as well as trying to maintain a positive outlook for her family, especially if there are children involved. I made the mistake of getting emotional and realized that is not what she needed at that moment.
3. Join The Network – Find out who the “buffer” person is for addressing and/or communicating family needs during the treatment period. For my friend, it is her sister-in-law. Make contact and find out details on meals, errands, family needs, etc. It can be overwhelming when you have the flu to have people coming in and out of your home, imagine what it is like when you are facing a potentially terminal illness.
4. Identify Their Needs – It is easy for us to jump into action and start planning what we WILL do to help. Even with the best of intentions, it may not be necessary or wanted. Put yourselves in their shoes and then think opposite in five different ways. Understand what they want, not what you would want.
5. Respect Privacy – They are going through a difficult time, take their lead and limit questions. Let them open the topic for discussion. If they do not, remember they are speaking to multiple specialists in a day/week, they may want and need a mental break from talking and thinking about it.
6. Educate – Learn what you can about the illness your friend/loved one is going through. Reading the “blog” could help provide insight into what her illness is and treatment options. Use that for your information only and not for offering treatment suggestions, she already has a team of professionals talking about options, treatments, and other considerations.
Soon Sally will start her first round of treatment. As of right now, it appears her results are coming out favorably. There is still a mountain of treatment and follow-up appointments to be had, but there seems to be much to be grateful for.
When my boys came home from football practice tonight, they asked what was going on at the Harris’ house because of all the cars. The reality of what she is going through hit me all over again. Her journey will soon officially start down a path that many have taken … and one we all have been on in some capacity.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the entire family. As Sally’s sister-in-law stated, right now she wants normalcy to continue, providing for her family, doing what she loves best. This includes keeping the house up, washing laundry, making dinner. What she wants more than anything is to have Prayer Warriors. Prayer Warriors to not just pray for her, but, in Sally fashion, to pray for the health of her family, knowledge, and wisdom of her team of specialists, the cancer patients she will encounter, and for healing.
Even in her darkest hour she is putting others before herself. I am humbled by her grace and inspired by her faith. Sally is not alone in this journey, hundreds of thousands of people are impacted yearly by this terrible disease. However, we do not have to let it cripple us, instead, we should take the lead from Sally and say, “You will not control me.”
Go pink for Breast Cancer! This October we’ve seen professional sports players drenching their uniforms in pink, news anchors accenting their attire with pink, businesses promoting pink merchandise, the list goes on! I challenge you to do more than just wear the pink, I challenge you to understand the movement and impact of going pink. Take time during the month and educate yourself on the importance of self-monitoring and routine breast exams.
I dedicate this post to my neighbor and her family. If this post resonated with you, take time to learn more about breast cancer and how you can support the awareness! Additional information is available, you can start here: http://ww5.komen.org/Default.aspx Please share this article with others … Tweet, Pin or share on LinkedIn or Facebook.
* Names were changed to respect their privacy.