Helping a Mommy Cancer Warrior

cancerwarriorSo this is for sure not the article I hoped I would be writing for you all this fall. Last September, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and after a radical hysterectomy (though I got to save my ovaries!), it looked like I was in the clear. Well, no. Fast forward to this past August and I find out I’m having another round with cervical cancer, but this time I’m doing 6 weeks of chemo and probably 8 weeks or so of radiation.

So instead of an autumnal tale of reminiscing, I am telling you this here in the thick of it battling the monster C while trying to balance life as a mommy.

Firstly, I have an amazing team around me, which makes me feel like the luckiest mom around. My husband is a rock, both my parents live close by and support our family so much, and I have an amazing group of friends and coworkers who have reached out to me in the kindest, most wonderful ways.

So many people have told me to let them know if I need help in any way, and I deeply appreciate that.  I want this post to serve as a guide with concrete suggestions for helping anyone in your life who may be in a similar situation to mine. Because fashion mags are my distraction, I’ll be doing this fashion mag style!

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  1. If your mom friend is also a pet lover . . .

Offer to take care of her pets! Though we lost our beloved greyhound this spring, last fall when I was healing from my hysterectomy my neighbor’s teenage daughter helped me with our dog by walking him in the afternoons (i.e. the one walk I always had to do by myself). I know she loved him, and I think they probably went on far more adventures than I would have taken him on. It meant so much to me that our sweet, big guy was well taken care of and given lots of attention at that hard time.

If your friend is a cat lover; offer to clean the cat box (or show your kid the joys of cat ownership by making him/her do it while you visit!) I love my cats, but on the days I feel tired or queasy the last think I want to do is change the darn box. Help with that would be awesome.

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  1. If your kids are close . . . .

Schedule a sleepover! Before I started chemo and radiation, I had an outpatient procedure to move my ovaries so they hopefully won’t be totally nuked by the radiation treatment. When one of my mommy friends heard about this, she offered to take my girls overnight for their first sleepover. Our kids are close, so my girls were PSYCHED to do this and by all accounts were well-behaved. It was also so helpful for my husband, who could focus on helping me heal. She swears it wasn’t a big deal, but to us it was HUGE to have that help and hours wherein we could talk face-to-face about the upcoming treatments without 2 (adorable!) constant interrupters.

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  1. If you’ve always contemplated giving that Dyson or Shark Steamer she owns a test run . . .

Come do a quick vacuum! When I brought home my first little one, 2 of my single girlfriends came over to check out the new baby. One of them (who knew about our pet hair situation!) saw my rug and offered to vacuum. I felt odd saying yes, but the other one chimed in and said “She’s been dying to try out that new Dyson you got. This is like a gift to HER!” Hey, people are strange, but I ain’t about to turn away a free living room touch-up. I’ve got a new sonic floor mop now, if anyone wants to try it before they buy it!

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  1. If she loves to cook . . .

Bring a meal! I know this is a classic, but it’s true. Last fall my coworkers set up a schedule and stocked us with more food than we knew what to do with, but it was all amazing and SO HELPFUL to me. (And led to me basically sobbing my thanks in a meeting later; true story.)

Please know, the meal does NOT have to be fancy or even homemade to be appreciated. I’ve dropped off family packs of gourmet burritos, a bag of salad, and chips and salsa and it was all appreciated.

BUT: if you personally aren’t a cook, you can still help. Offer to take all or part of the grocery list to store, or ask what she’s craving right now and swing by with a big helping of that. Sometime all I really want is toast and a huge Publix fruit salad, and while that sounds like NBD it is really satisfying to me! And please text me if you are going on a Trader Joe’s run. Pumpkin and/or ginger flavored stuff is super healing, right?

Last, if you signed up for the grocery delivery service Shipt, give your friend that $10 off code that pops up on there all the time. A friend did this for me and we signed up. So far, the service has been great! All shipments over $35 are free delivery (<ahem> $35 is what I drop just walking through the door, you know?) and the items have arrived on time and with a smiling delivery person. Win-win.

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  1. If she’s in your mommy group or a social butterfly . . .

Keep inviting her to stuff! I’m involved with an awesome mommy group, and we try to schedule 2 Moms’ Night Outs a month (in addition to the daytime, kid-centric activities). I may not be able to make those gab sessions as much as I used to, but I WILL strive to make a few. (Offering to give rides is also appreciated.) And thank heavens for MNOs, because they are when I learn I am not insane and this mom thing really is quite a trip! So whatever social group you have going on: tailgating, potlucks, workout groups, book clubs, or game nights, please continue to invite your Cancer Warrior friend. Maybe she won’t show up every time, and perhaps she’ll duck out early, but feeling like people still want her there is invaluable.

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