I think we can all agree that things have been pretty bleak in our world recently. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, Uvalde, the oncoming attack on women’s reproductive rights and so much more make for a depressing nonstop news cycle. I do my best to separate myself from these large and looming issues, as I am simply not able to take on too much more darkness, but of course it seeps in.
I want to take this opportunity to talk about some of the beautiful things that have come out of my own personal hellscape, to try and counteract the dense fog. I think we could all use some positivity and faith in the human spirit amiright? Let’s go…
When I was diagnosed, it was Christmastime. I found out about the cancer definitively a few days before the holiday. I knew I had to hide it from the kids until afterwards. On Christmas day, my beloved aunt died suddenly. It was a terrible blow to the whole family and we knew that the next day we would sit the kids down to tell them the terrible cancer news. You may be thinking, ‘Grace, this is not uplifting…’. Hang tight, I am almost there.
My in-laws happened to be in town and staying with us for the holiday. When we told the kids about my cancer being back, they each had a different reaction ranging from stoicism to devastation. That moment was horrifying, but it was also so incredibly special. The kids had 4 adults who love them deeply to lean on. Having my in-laws there to hold them up, hell to hold us up, was such an enormous blessing. They are Italian and Jewish New Yorkers so they do everything with gusto and loving is what they excel at the most. The bond they have with the children, and the support they were able to show them, was so truly touching to me and made what was a terrible day, somewhat stunning in its own beauty.
Early on in the disease process, I was being inundated with offers of support. I made the bold-ass move to go ahead and simply lay out that if you wanted to help us, gift cards to our favorite food places would be the best way. I felt like a jackass doing so, but I know from being on the other end that you want so badly to help, and giving people this direct opportunity would not only benefit my family, it could make the giver feel good, too.
We got so many gift cards. Like, so many. The amount of gifting was truly outrageous. You will never feel as popular as you do when you have a life threatening disease. I am not necessarily recommending it, but I am not knocking it either. To be able to quantify your support is truly bizarre, but also amazing. I felt and continue to feel so loved and supported by my people. My people range from my closest friends and family to folks I have never met who simply know about my plight through the grapevine.
In fact, some of the most meaningful gifting was done by people I didn’t know at all. There were parents from the school where I teach who wrote heartfelt notes and sent them along with gifts. My children’s friends’ parents, gathering together for a group gift. Our block created a collection. My colleagues at the school where I teach gave me the most extravagant gift basket with legit cash-o-la for a trip when this is all over amongst a plethora of other thoughtful gifts. My direct team gifted us multiple services from a cleaning service.
Flowers, homemade bread and cookies, fuzzy socks and cards. You name it and it showed up on our doorstep. At times the gifting felt overwhelming, as it was too generous for someone in my economic position. We are a two job household with plenty of income to feed ourselves, but it was more about the convenience of being able to order delivery or have some treats on the counter for our children to enjoy when they get home from school so it’s not quite so sad that mom is still sick in bed.
There is one gift that haunts me, happily. One day we found an envelope in our mailbox that didn’t come through the mail. It was a beautiful card with a very heartfelt and personal message. It was signed, “someone who also hates cancer,” no name. In the card was cash. A lot of cash. Like, way too much cash. Enough that I can’t mention it here because I feel too awkward.
As the good stalker I am, I ran to the Ring Cam. A woman in a hat, hood and mask walks from her white SUV up to the mailbox. I have surveyed every angle and can’t figure out who the unknown benefactor is. They wanted to remain anonymous and have succeeded in doing so. If you are reading this, silent benefactor, please know that the money has been placed in the safe and will be used when we are able to travel as a family again. Thank you for hating cancer as much as I do. Respect for your stealth skills.
Another silver lining has been the resuscitation of important friendships. Let me make clear that these friendships were not dead, but many had gone into latency, as occurs when life gets busy and distance stretches wide. So far, 3 friends have flown in from other states to take care of me. All of these women are certainly considered inner circle, we just don’t see each other often anymore. Upon diagnosis, plans were made for visits not only to see me, but to care for me and my family. And if you are reading this and are fall into this category, but haven’t been able to make it to see me yet, don’t you worry! I will be in active treatment through October so there is plenty of time.
On spring break, my husband and kids went on our spring break trip to California and I stayed home, as I was getting the big, bad chemo and was sick as a dog. A newer friend basically offered herself up to be my cancery handmaiden and sacrificed her spring break to care for me. She cooked for me, brought me each meal in bed, cleaned, cared for the dogs and mostly, was my wingman. As much as this wonderful woman helped me, I also believe that I helped her by introducing her to RuPaul’s Drag Race which I think we all know is the ultimate gift.
Cancer is the great equalizer and will show you who your real people are. I basically have to beat people off with a bat to take me to chemo. I have had 9 treatments and many, many more appointments for hydration, etc. and have had at least 10 different people accompany me. It is like a rotating wheel of people who love me that keeps gathering steam. Not only is it a huge help to me, I believe that it is a weird-ass gift to my people as it let’s them into my fascinating, secret, cancery world.
I hope that this reminds you that there is some good left in the world. Well, at least if you have cancer.