The year 2017 was a whirlwind for me. With a breast cancer diagnosis in March, four surgeries, and 12 rounds of chemo before the end of the year, I didn’t take much time to process. From the first doctor’s phone call to the final revisions, my husband and I plunged into “fix it” mode. We make a mean, task-oriented machine and can organize ourselves to take care of business in a moment’s notice. And take care of it we did – with the help of God, skilled medical servants, and my tribe.
Now that I’m several months removed from treatments and firmly entrenched in the monitoring phase, I’m finally starting to take a mental inventory of all that it was and all the ways the big C has changed me. I decided the time had come to read through the diary I kept of my journey. I wrote of fear and tears and decisions and complications, but the resounding theme of my entries was support. First and foremost, my husband was, is, and will for the remainder of his life be, my rock. I fell in love with him all over again watching him lead our children and me through this crisis. But right behind him was an army of women who shored me up to fight this enemy.
No one led this army, and some never even met each other. They came one by one when I needed them most, but all together they formed a fortress around me. My friends – from high school, college, church, support groups, and my kids’ sports teams joined my mom and sisters in holding me up as I faced each challenge. They brought casseroles, gift cards, coloring books, and best-sellers. They helped with school pick-ups and kids’ activities and household chores. They prayed for me.
The help was invaluable. But the best gift I got was time. I never went to a chemotherapy session alone. In fact, I had a different friend sign up to take me each time! I nicknamed these women “chemosabes.” Did I NEED them with me? No. But my new routine was anything but routine with a high-ranking member of this army in tow. I dubbed the recliner in the treatment room a sacred place where my girls met me at my most vulnerable. As my healing dripped into my body over long hours of infusion, each girlfriend blessed me with her own unique personality and perspective.
My twin sister brought her laptop and worked from the doctor’s office while giving me her support and encouragement. My mom did needlework while I read a book. One friend (who I swear has the spiritual gift of humor, don’t tell me it’s not one) read Would You Rather cards until I could barely breathe from the laughter. Several patients involved themselves in the game. I didn’t even know this girl that well, but after those hours, I knew I wanted to. My younger sister, who had to find a sitter for her kids so she could join me, came bearing a “lovey” from my sweet toddler niece. She declared that I needed it now more than she did. My sister also held me as I cried during one of my lowest, most tired, and worn-out moments.
I had more friends volunteer to sit with me than I had appointments. So some just came and sat on my couch or brought lunch to my house when I still lacked the strength or energy to get out of my pajamas. My girlfriends were the bright spot in an otherwise tough and scary season.
The statistics on breast cancer are such that I know if you haven’t experienced it yourself, you know someone who has or is experiencing it. If the battle is personal for you, reach out to your girls. Who else can make you laugh about your new boobs or your changed sex life? And who better to help you accessorize your baby-bald head? If you know someone dealing with this diagnosis, start brainstorming now about how you can help. You don’t have to be a gourmet cook or a good nursemaid. Parking your butt in the seat next to her may be all she needs.
Check your “girls,” and then check IN with your girls. You might save your life or make someone else’s.
Lauren is a wife and mom to two daughters – one with special needs – and one bonus son. She lives, worships Jesus, and teaches yoga in the Dallas, Texas area. She shares her adventures, victories, and flub-ups from her laptop at laurensparks.net. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.