Cancer Diagnosis - Tips on How to Help
After The Diagnosis- How to Deal with Awkward Uncertainty
I was on my own and rented a small house when I found out I was sick. I was established in my job and had terrific co-workers. They were all generally very decent and good human beings, so how they helped me only cemented what I already felt about them. So, what if you don’t know your co-worker all that well? Or, what if you are a landlord and your renter has paid on time and respected you and your property- is there something that you can do for them? Are you that person’s boss? If they have been a consistent asset to your company in any way, what can you do to help? I will tell you what some amazing people did for me, and maybe it will help you.
Like I said, my friends, landlord, and bosses were all great people to begin with. I never took a job where I knew the company would not value me, and I chose friends much the same way, so by doing this I was a step ahead in the game. Because my diagnosis was a huge devastating surprise, this ace-in-the-hole was to my advantage for sure.
Manager or Boss: What you can do
Because I had been at my job for almost three years, my manager, and owners of the business I worked for knew me pretty well. They knew I would need to take time off for surgery and recovery. When I found out how long it would be I let them know, and therefore they could make other arrangements to hire a temporary in my place. What I didn’t expect was for them to pay me while I was out. My diagnosis was such a shock to my mind I never even thought how I would pay my rent, or utilities – or even eat. I just kept going with the flow, and it seemed that everything just fell into place. I didn’t ask anyone for anything, they all just instinctively knew what I needed and did what they could.
Landlord: What you can do
As soon as I found out, I told my landlord and his wife. They were wonderful people. They were farmers, and I lived in one of their rental houses outside of the city limits of town on the edge of their farm. It was an idyllic place to live. I had been there just under a year when I got the news. They liked me, and had grown children of their own, so the news hit them hard. They were just that kind of people, very caring and compassionate. After my surgery and during my recovery at home, every single day I would find a plate of food at lunchtime and a bouquet of yellow daffodils inside my back screen door. Knowing I was tired and not feeling well enough to cook for myself, my landlord’s wife would fix an extra plate at lunch and bring it up. They lived just down the road from my house. She never mentioned doing it, nor did I ask her to. She never woke me up to ask me how I was; she just brought it and left. That first month when my rent was due, I wrote out a check, but she would not take it. Instead, she asked if I felt like going shopping. I was so happy, it was the first feeling of normalcy I’d had since the diagnosis. I went, and we weren’t able to stay long as I weakened quickly, but I so enjoyed getting out, and the love she showed to me is now hard to describe. I can only say that I will never forget it as long as I live.
As a Friend: What you can do
My friends acted a little bit different. I was 26, and a lot of them were still single. I found that the married ones took the news easier and were not so inhibited by the news. That does not surprise me now. I understand single life because I was single for so long. I think singles in this day and age are much more open to this kind of thing, and so willing to go wherever it is that you need to go. If you are unsure how to act, just treat your friend as you normally would, but know that they will not be physically able to keep up with you as they once did. They are still the same personality, but remember that they have been hit with devastating news. It is not uncommon for a person to behave abnormally at first, it is to be expected. Give them a lot of room, and lots of love and understanding. You can do your regular extracurricular activities with your friends who are well. Maybe you can go in together as a group and pool money for a gift. Don’t be afraid to ask your friend what they need. If you are close, they may just need to talk and you need to listen. There may not be one single solitary thing that you can do, but being there will be enough, trust me.
The Payoff: Return on Investment of Caring
By the time I felt strong enough to go back to work, I still had a job waiting on me, my rent and utilities were paid, and I was strengthened because someone cared enough to feed me when I was too weak to feed myself. This also took a load off of my own mother who worked full-time and lived farther away. At work each day my manager had brought a live flower and kept it in a vase placed on my absent desk. It was springtime in Alabama so everyone got to enjoy the poignant beauty. The day I decided to go back, my manager told me it was the only day she forgot to bring a flower. She said that day I was the flower. You cannot imagine how good that made me feel. All of these kindnesses were done unexpectedly, and I will never forget one of them. All of them together helped me through a very bad patch of life, and got me back up and going again.
When you hear bad news from someone like my friends did from me, don’t resist it. Step up bravely knowing that you can make a difference. As you can see, it wasn’t just one person who helped me, and most of these people did not know each other. It just happened. So you see, don’t feel like it’s all on you alone to hold a person up. If you do your part, I’m confident that someone else is holding up the other end and the middle, too. Just be there and do what you can!
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