I’m writing this from my chair at the chemo infusion center. It’s not all sad—and that’s the story I want to share. There are lots of us who need a tragedy to change.
I found a lump in March of 2020, a month after the pandemic lock-down and 1 month after my “all clear” mammogram. A giant tumor was hiding behind dense tissue. It happens 20% of the time they said. I wondered how that was ever an ok statistic?
I was working at a major movie studio in Los Angeles, owned a marketing agency on the side, and had 2 young boys who were 2 and 5 at the time. I traveled the world while my husband held down the fort and a nanny gave my kids baths and cooked dinner. And then I started chemo.
From the first infusion I felt humbled. I didn’t know what pain was until this. I’m an optimist who got mad at people who didn’t smile back in the grocery store. Then I understood—maybe they were in pain, too.
I always try to help everyone I meet. My parents stopped telling me their bucket list because I would make sure they all happened. But although I spent money and booked vacations, I wasn’t the person who showed up the most—I was busy. My dad always says the most valuable thing you have to give to someone is your time. I didn’t have any. Until I was worried I wouldn't have any more.
The first thing my husband said to me after the diagnosis was, “It’s not your fault.” But I knew it was. I’d been pushing too hard, not eating well, not exercising. I’d kept on the baby weight and stopped taking care of myself. That’s what working moms do, right?
Then my neighbor showed up. Over and over. We weren’t close friends but she just didn’t go away. She got our grocery list from my husband when I ignored her texts. She ordered up chicken noodle soup delivery on my infusion days and had it delivered. She estimated my solo-drive time to the doctor’s office and called to take my mind off of the pending test results. She took the time. And I learned through her what that looked like.
I spend my time now packing cancer care packages for women in treatment. I used my marketing background to do qualitative and quantitative research so I knew what worked for a majority of women during treatment and it wasn’t just based on my experience. I want to listen now. I published a public calendar during Breast Cancer Awareness Month this month to let anyone sign up to talk to me in 30 minute slots. Just to talk and I would listen. Give advice if they wanted it. But just to give my time.
I'm committed to educating friends and family more about women in treatment. They don't need your pink ribbon gear. They probably don't identify with pink ribbons at all (yet). They need you to understand that they are the same but different. They want to do everything they did before but can't. They want you to be your normal self even if they can't be theirs. They want you to learn about what they're going through--not the treatment specifics and cancer pathology--but the emotional journey. It's hard. It's terrifying. And every little thing you can do to help, will help.
We've set up CaraKit to provide help to friends and family who want to help in a practical way. To make the process less scary for them and their loved one. We want to support their mind, body and spirit because all are supremely important. And we want to do our best to help those going through this, however we can.