Column: Some good news

My chemotherapy nurse had good news for me at my latest treatment: my hemoglobin numbers dropped only from 7.7 to 7.6. I’m still anemic, but that slight drop is not enough to warrant a blood transfusion just yet. My doctor said to do a transfusion if my hemoglobin number dropped below a 7.
After all that stress and fear. After asking my social media friends for prayers and positive thoughts so that I wouldn’t be a complete wuss, I didn’t need to be brave for a blood transfusion after all. The nurse and I were both relieved, but I doubt I can get by too much longer without it dropping below a 7.
I’ve accepted that I’ll probably be getting a blood transfusion at some point before treatment ends. I have four rounds of chemotherapy left to go. Logic says that every treatment increases the possibility.
Little things like walking or even standing for too long sometimes tire me out. I’m looking forward to healing — whether that’s with a blood transfusion or finishing chemo treatment so my body can heal on its own. A former cancer patient told me not to worry about getting the transfusion. “You’ll feel like climbing a tree when it’s done,” he said.
By this time next month I’ll be past chemo and getting ready to face radiation therapy. The end of chemotherapy can’t come fast enough.
The nurse who draws my blood for labs tests every week is prepared for me now when I come to her office. She’s always got some little cups of fruit juice ready to go in case I get sick or light-headed. She hands me a little battery-operated fan that I turn on while she’s working. The airflow helps. Thank goodness for good nurses. I’m not sure how I would make it through without their care.
I read an article in Outside magazine recently about new exercise recommendations for people undergoing cancer treatment. The American Cancer Society, the American College of Sports Medicine and other medical organizations now recommend cancer patients get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity three times per week, plus two weekly strength-training sessions. They note that exercise boosts physical and mental health and that physical activity can help in treating and preventing cancer.
My own exercise levels have not been consistent through treatment. Before treatment started, I was running. Now, some days I feel well enough to get up before work starts and go for a walk. Some days I’m on the couch or my bed all day. The good news is that brisk walking counts as a moderate exercise, so when I do exercise I’m at least following their recommendations.
Being anemic for the time being only complicates any attempt at exercising. A nurse friend told me she’s surprised I can function at all with a hemoglobin level of 7. She told me I shouldn’t exercise because I could pass out if I overdid it. I promised someone else that I wouldn’t go out walking alone anymore.
I’m looking forward to the day when I can go back to running and not have to worry about all this. I have a feeling that getting back into running shape after treatment is over is going to take some time. But I’m lucky to have that time.

Column: Anemia and how to fix it

My health care provider, a physician assistant I’d met only that morning, was casual, nonchalant delivering the news.
“You’re anemic, and it’s been getting progressively worse,” she said. She’d read the results of my lab work over the past few weeks.
Anemia, caused by not having enough healthy red blood cells, is another side effect of chemotherapy. Bone marrow produces red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. From what I understand, chemotherapy suppresses the bone marrow and causes it to make fewer red blood cells. The timing of my weekly treatments make it difficult for my bone marrow to rebound and start producing more red blood cells before the next treatment.
People with anemia can experience dizziness, lightheadedness, heart palpitations and shortness of breath. Severe anemia can even cause organ damage.
Despite the weekly lab work I have before my chemotherapy treatments, this is the first time anyone one has mentioned to me that I’m anemic. It seems like this would be good information to have. I start to wonder if this has anything to do with me feeling light-headed or getting sick and after I have blood drawn for lab work. Is this why I’m sometimes out of breath when I take the stairs to the second floor of the Cancer Center?
I later find out that my hemoglobin (a part of red blood cells) level started at a 12 before treatment and now I’m at a 7.
The nurse who administers my chemotherapy has even worse news for me. If the anemia gets any worse, if my number goes below a 7, I’ll have to have a blood transfusion.
Let me just say: My rational self knows a blood transfusion is probably not a big deal. I’ve been told that cancer patients typically have to have at least one blood transfusion during the course of chemotherapy. And I know that there are all kinds of safety screenings in place to make sure the blood I would get won’t cause me any harm. After I wrote about this on my blog, two people reached out to me and said they’d had blood transfusions before and they felt so much better after having them. My rational self fully expects that to be the case for me, too.
But the irrational part of me, the part of me that fears needles and hates the sight of blood, hates this idea. That part of me is still cringing from the news.
“I can’t even think about that,” I tell the nurse while making a disgusted face. “That’s so gross.” He just smiles and tells me it sounds like a bigger deal than it is.
Besides the transfusion, there’s nothing I can do to bring up my red blood cell count, I’m told. If it were caused by an iron deficiency, I could eat more spinach and red meat. But my anemia is caused by chemotherapy. If they were to hold off treatment, my numbers would probably rebound. But I’d like to get through with my treatments as quickly as possible.
Over the weekend after my treatment, I grow either more anemic or more paranoid. I’m certain that I’m feeling more and more shortness of breath when I’m walking. My appetite is all but gone. I get lightheaded when I stand up. I spend most of my time in bed or on my couch. Exercise, I reason, might cause organ damage.
Long story short, I end up back in my doctor’s office on Tuesday so the same physician assistant can explain anemia and the blood transfusion process again. I come away with the message that my symptoms would probably be worse if there were something immediate to worry about. Peace of mind for a $40 co-pay.
I’ll have to wait until my next treatment to find out whether I need a blood transfusion.

Column: Starting to see the finish line

Now that my chemotherapy is every week instead of every other week, it feels like cancer treatment is flying by. It will be over before I know it.
So far, I’ve been through five rounds of the chemotherapy drug Taxol. As my doctor told me it would be, it’s been much easier on me than the previous combination of Adriamycin and Cytoxan. The side effects of this drug have not been as hard.
I haven’t felt any neuropathy so far. Perhaps that means the cryotherapy gloves and socks that I put on during treatments are working. Or perhaps it just hasn’t started yet. Only time will tell.
The chemotherapy is starting to discolor two of my fingernails and cause them to lift from the nail beds. This is an expected side effect. I’ve been rubbing tea tree oil on them to try to prevent them from completely coming off.
While things are going well for the most part, something really annoying keeps happening when I go in for blood tests before treatment. I keep nearly passing out and/or getting sick after a nurse takes blood.
Twice now the poor nurses have had to push me in a wheelchair either to the waiting room or back to chemo treatments.
Last time it happened it was after a nurse had trouble drawing blood. She asked me to put my arm over my head and cough. Then the syringes she was using kept breaking, causing me more anxiety and her more frustration.
Once she got done, I started to feeling-light headed and sick to my stomach.
These episodes usually pass quickly, and I started to feel better.
I don’t know whether to blame my strong aversion to blood and needles or if it’s something physical like dehydration or a low blood sugar. My nurses tell me I might be dehydrated. I just know that it’s a really bad feeling to be out of control of your own body.
I have seven more rounds of chemotherapy to go. If all goes as planned I’ll finish chemotherapy in mid September, right in time to have a much better fall than summer. Then comes radiation treatment.
I am looking forward to a lot of things when cancer treatment is over. For one, I can’t wait for my hair to start to grow back. I still haven’t gotten used to seeing myself bald. I catch my reflection in the mirror sometimes and cringe at how bad I look.
I’m still wearing the light pink wig when I go out places. It gets me plenty of looks. Sometimes for a minute or two I’ll forget I’m wearing it until I notice people staring. Some people have even come out and ask me outright if it’s my real hair or a wig. Wearing a wig during the hot summer months has not been much fun.
I’m also looking forward to going back to work in an actual office instead of in my bedroom or couch. My cats are usually fine company but I’m really looking forward to being around other people again.
I’m looking forward to running again. I’d like to train for another half marathon next year. These days the only marathons I can do are marathons of Golden Girls episodes.
I hope that will change soon enough.

The way my treatment schedule works out, I’m usually feeling bad on Friday from the last round of treatment when I have to go in for another round. This week when I got there for them to run blood tests, the nurse told me she was having trouble drawing blood from my chemo port.
“I need you lift your arm over your head, turn your head and cough,” she says. Every once in a while she called me sweetie pie, which was endearing.
Then the syringes she was using kept breaking, causing me more anxiety and her more frustration.
I’m really squeamish about blood and all this wasn’t helping. Finally she got what she needed. But my vision got blurry and I started to feel lightheaded.
“I think I need to sit here for a second,” I say. She leaves to keep a blood pressure cuff and puts a trash can in front of me before she goes. I’m dry heaving into a trashcan when another nurse comes in, “Oh no you’re sick,” she says.
Thank goodness for nurses.
It passes quickly. I start to feel better, well enough to walk back out to the waiting room unassisted. The nurses don’t take any chances when I go back for treatment, though. They push me in a wheelchair.
I wish I could make this getting sick thing go away. More than anything it’s an inconvenience. My nurses tell me to drink more water, eat more and take my anti-nausea medicine before I come.
I hope that works.

Column: A little help from my friends

Back in March, while I was waiting on results from a biopsy to determine whether I had breast cancer, someone close to me made a joke. He was trying to convince me that the bad thing likely happening to me wasn’t actually happening.
“You can’t have cancer,” he said. “You can’t afford to have cancer.”
He was half right. Yes, I did have cancer, and no, I can’t afford it. I don’t think most people are financially prepared to pay for cancer treatment.
But cancer didn’t check my bank account or credit score before it decided to take up residence in my body.
Even before my diagnosis, the thought of having cancer scared me, not so much because I thought I would die, but because I knew it would wreak havoc on my finances.
This week my best friend and running partner gave me something incredible. She set up an online fundraiser in my name to offset the cost of my medical bills.
I don’t relish having to go to my friends and neighbors to ask for help. My pride says I should be able to pay for it myself, no matter how long it might take me.
The truth is I have better health insurance now than I’ve had my entire adult life. I’m better off financially this year than I have been before. I know I’m faring better financially through this pandemic than some others are. I’m grateful for that.
Still, between chemotherapy treatment and surgeries, medical bills have been piling up around me, and treatment is not over yet. I’ve been paying on the bills as I can.
While I hated someone having to ask for help on my behalf, I was blown away by the results of the fundraiser. In about a day, it had exceeded the goal of $5,000 that she set for me. And donations were still trickling in.
I’m not sure what cancer treatment will cost me before it’s all over. But for now, I can’t tell you what a relief it is to not have to worry about my medical bills. I can focus on beating this disease, not my credit score.
Donations came from all over — friends, relatives, people I know through social media, lots of former journalism colleagues and a few sources. Some were from strangers or acquaintances that I’d met before but only in passing. Many were people I know from Charleston.
It was just another example to me of how much this community has cared for me during my cancer treatment. I cannot overstate how much people have done to help me since my cancer treatment started. They’ve brought meals and sent care packages. They’ve checked in with me and sent me cards and well wishes.
As I wrote in a Facebook post recently, when this is over, I think the thing that will stick with me is not how difficult chemotherapy has been. What I’ll remember is how much my community was there for me when I needed it and how much I am loved.
Thank you for that. I will not forget it.

Column: Going it alone at chemotherapy

If you have to have chemotherapy, the Charleston Area Medical Center Cancer is as nice a place to have it as you could ask for. 

I remember writing about the Cancer Center’s fundraising and development on the site of the old Watt Powell Park when I was a reporter. Now I’m at the Cancer Center once a week for chemotherapy, plus for the occasional checkup with my oncologist. 

As you walk through the door, you see a big wall of windows and a chandelier above a comfortable looking seating area on the first floor. The second floor has a nice patio area that I’ve never been on. 

On chemotherapy days, I sit in a recliner in my own little station with a television and a remote control. 

The nurses offer me warm blankets and sometimes snacks. I’m separated from other patients with a glass panel to one side and an aisle to the other. It’s comfortable.

In the time of COVID-19 though, the Cancer Center can be a lonely place, as well. 

A big red sign sitting at the entrance to the hospital warns “COVID ALERT. No visitors are permitted.” Hospital workers take your temperature and screen you with questions about potential exposure to the virus with each visit you make. 

Cancer patients have to be even more careful during this time to avoid getting COVID-19. Chemotherapy can make your immune system compromised. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that some cancer patients are more likely to experience complications from COVID-19.  So I’m glad the hospital is taking extra precautions to keep us all safe. 

The no-visitor policy means chemotherapy patients attend their infusions alone. (I’m assuming there may be some exceptions to that with patients who are sicker than me.)

Once I got a message from CAMC that patients could bring one visitor with them. My mom drives in from Kentucky each week to drop me off and pick me up, so I invited her to come with me that week. Then I discovered that it didn’t apply to the Cancer Center. That makes sense to me. I figure it will be a while before that’s an option for cancer patients again.

In the waiting room, we wear masks. To encourage social distancing, only some seats are available to sit in. That makes it difficult to strike up conversations with people beside you in the waiting room. Last week I wanted to tell a fellow patient how much I liked her floral printed face mask. I figured we might have a lot to talk about. But there wasn’t a good way of getting her attention, so I let it slide. 

Some cancer patients might be bothered that they can’t take someone to chemotherapy.  Many people drive much further than me for their appointments, and the company might be nice. 

But I don’t mind going to chemotherapy treatments alone. Until I started using the cryotherapy gloves and socks, I would bring a work computer and answer emails and do what I can. It’s a nice and quiet place to work. 

—–

Speaking of cryotherapy, I gave it another shot last week and again I hated the cold. I also worried a little bit about restricting blood flow to my hands and feet during chemotherapy. I don’t want to do anything to prevent the chemotherapy drugs from doing their job and killing any possible cancer cell in my body. But one of my favorite doctors assured me this week that wearing the gloves and socks on my hands and feet is not likely to prevent the drugs from doing their jobs. Especially since my cancer was in my breast. So I’ll try again.

Column: Trying and failing at cryotherapy

On my second round of Taxol chemotherapy treatment, I tried out something the women in my breast cancer Facebook group recommended: cryotherapy, or extreme cold therapy.
Some of them wear frozen gloves and socks in an attempt to help prevent neuropathy, a common side effect of this chemotherapy drug. Neuropathy is generally pain, tingling and numbness brought on by damage to the peripheral nervous system. Symptoms can also include trouble with motor skills like writing and texting, problems gripping, clumsiness and weakness, according to an article on Healthline. The same article said that symptoms can be temporary or a lifelong problem.
Just another one of those fun chemotherapy side effects.
I don’t know much about finding medical research, but from some quick Google searching, it seems that studies of cryotherapy for chemo-induced neuropathy have had mixed results. So this column is not meant to be an endorsement.
According to breastcancer.org, a small medical study of 36 women published in 2017 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggested that wearing ice socks and gloves for 90 minutes during Taxol treatment helped control neuropathy symptoms.
My doctor hadn’t heard of it, but told me to try it if I’d like. One of the nurses at the Cancer Center told me that some patients do it, but the nurses don’t weigh in on whether it’s a good idea or a bad one, “because there are mixed results from studies.”
I figured it was worth a shot. One less side effect is one less side effect, and what could it hurt?
I meant to try it sooner, but my first week I wasn’t organized enough. I waited too long to order the gloves and socks. A delivery man brought them to my door an hour or so after my treatment. The gloves look like big blue mittens only instead of yarn they’re made of plastic with a liquid filling that freezes. The socks have inserts that you pop in the freezer.
The first treatment I held frozen ice packs in my hands and on my feet for lack of something better.
The second treatment, I packed the gloves and socks with some ice in a cooler and carted it to the CAMC Cancer Center. I hoped they wouldn’t thaw out too much while I had my blood test and waited for treatment to start.
When the nurse finally hung the bag of Taxol and started to administer it, I got out the gloves and socks from the cooler and put them on.
A little about me: I hate being cold so much. I complain about it all through the winter.
So I should have anticipated hating extreme cold therapy as much as I did.
I could not keep my hands in the gloves for too long before yanking them out and rubbing them together to warm up again.
My nurse noticed my discomfort. It might have been the cuss words I muttered under my breath.
“Yeah, I can’t stand being cold, either,” she said.
The socks weren’t so bad. Maybe that was because there was a cloth barrier between my feet and the ice.
The first two treatments of Taxol were administered really slow to make sure I didn’t have any negative reactions to the new drug. The ice was thawing in the socks and gloves before it ended.
So not a great first start at cryotherapy, but I’m going to try again.
I may end up having to get a second pair of both the socks and the gloves. I‘m not sure they’ll stay frozen long enough to use during the entire treatment. My next treatment promises to be shorter, though.
Because I frequently get reader emails from former and current breast cancer patients, here’s a question for you: did you use cryotherapy during Taxol treatment? Did you not and then get neuropathy? Feel free to email me at the address listed below.

Column: Thoughts on a fate worse than cancer during a pandemic

I realized recently I’ve been looking at the timing of my cancer diagnosis all wrong. I found out the lump in my breast was cancer March 20, the same day the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Kanawha County. I thought being diagnosed with cancer in the midst of a pandemic was tragic timing.
At the time, all I could think of was that going through chemotherapy treatments that would compromise my immune system at the same time there’s a highly contagious, potentially deadly, virus going around would be the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.
(It still might be, but I’m staying home, wearing a mask, washing my hands and using sanitizer and basically doing everything I can to avoid COVID-19. So far, so good.)
Cancer’s always bad news, but it took reading an op-ed written by Dr. Sherri Young, my boss and the health officer for Kanawha County, and Monica Mason, education director for the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority, to make me realize that the timing could have been worse.
When the pandemic started, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that doctors delay routine or non-emergency care of patients for a time in order to mitigate the spread of the disease in hospitals and preserve masks and other equipment to be used during the pandemic.
So while cancer is always bad news, the timing could have been much worse. My tests could have been put off. Or fear of COVID-19 could have caused me to stay away from doctors’ offices.
My doctors found my cancer at stage 2. Had I put off those tests for later because of COVID-19, at what stage might the doctors have found it? Timeliness is so important when you’re talking about cancer. It can mean the difference between life and death.
All that to say, take it from me, go to the doctor. Get your mammograms and other cancer screenings. Don’t let COVID-19 take more than it already has.
I’’m 35 years old. Regular mammograms aren’t even recommended for women until age 40. My cancer was diagnosed after I found the tumor. Breast cancer is the last thing I thought I expected this year. Cancer doesn’t seem to run in my family. I only found out recently that I had an aunt who also had breast cancer.
So, even if you think it can’t happen to you, it can. Don’t put off cancer screenings and other doctor’s visits. Wear your mask, stay six feet away from other patients and use your hand sanitizer when you go, but don’t put off going to the doctor.

Column: Bidding farewell to the red devil

Chemotherapy is not done, but I have reached a sort of milestone. I’ve had my last treatment of the drugs Adriamycin and Cytoxan, or A/C, as cancer patients commonly refer to the pair. In the world of cancer treatment, Adriamycin is often called the “Red Devil,” both for its bright, red Kool-Aid color and its nasty side effects.
The drug can cause tissue damage if not administered correctly. It can also cause heart damage, though that’s a lesser occurring side effect.
I’ve read that Adriamycin can cause burns if it comes in contact with skin. Instructions on WebMD call for anyone who comes in contact with it to “immediately and completely wash the skin with soap and water.” If it gets in your eyes, flush them and “seek immediate medical attention,” it says.
Nurses at the Cancer Center put on gowns to administer it.
Other common side effects include low white blood cell count, increased risk of bleeding from low platelet count, appetite changes, nail changes, hair loss, nausea, vomiting and mouth sores.
Farewell, Adriamycin. I will not miss you.
Next up in my cancer treatment is 12 rounds of weekly Taxol treatments. While some of the side effects for Taxol will overlap with Adriamycin and Cytoxan, my doctor tells me Taxol is typically much easier on bodies than A/C treatment. I am cautiously optimistic that the next three months will be better than the last two.
Like everything else when you’re new to cancer treatment, I’ll have to wait and see.

So far, I’ve found chemotherapy to be daunting. I typically can predict when the bad days and nausea are coming. Not every day is bad, but bad days are very bad. After the last round, I got sick in the office of a new doctor on my first visit there. I should have canceled the appointment, but I underestimated how bad I felt that morning. I’ve mused about this more on my blog.
I don’t want to be too negative about chemotherapy. After all, it’s saving my life. I’m grateful for that.
But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 245,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Going through chemotherapy makes you wonder why we haven’t come up with better ways to treat a disease that affects so many people.
I consider myself lucky and my reaction to the drugs mild. I’ve heard of women with what sounds like way worse reactions than mine.
It makes me sad to think that some cancer patients live out their last days with the adverse side effects of chemotherapy. On my worst days I think, this really is no way to live.

Hair loss is one side effect that is not likely to go away for me right now, but I’ve found something that helps. I’ve been wearing a pink wig.
If hair loss can be described as fun, this wig is making it fun. And the reactions to it in my new Facebook profile picture have all been positive.
I don’t typically wear bright colors in my hair. In fact I rarely do much of anything with my hair. That, more than anything, might be the tell-tale sign that I’m wearing a wig for people who know me personally. It’s easier to have pink hair while I’m working from home. I doubt I’d get by with it or even have the nerve to try it in an office setting.
But right now, it’s helping to lift my spirits.

Column: No epiphanies, but realization of how kind people are

I don’t have any epiphanies to tell you about. I thought that being treated for a life-threatening illness might make me reevaluate my life. Maybe I would come out of this experience a changed woman with a new purpose.
In Sikka Madhulika’s book “A Breast Cancer Alphabet,” the E is for epiphanies.
“I’d like to say I had one,” she writes. “I’m tempted to say everything in my life changed and I have become a better person. I’d like to say that I unleashed a newfound sense of purpose, a motivation to do all those things I hadn’t had the guts to do before.”
Like the author, I haven’t had any epiphanies either. What I want is what she writes that she wants, too — to have back the life I had before cancer. I’d give anything to be training to run the Charleston Distance Run or another half marathon this year instead of enduring chemotherapy treatment.
I wish I could get up every morning and work from my office downtown instead of on the couch in my living room. I wish I were planning to see a music festival or two this year instead of being at home most of the time.
(Granted, a lot of the things I want may or may not happen anyway because of COVID-19).
And while I haven’t had any epiphanies, I have had small realizations. For one, I should just adopt the dog and buy the kayak that every summer I wish I had. When this is over and I’m done with treatment, I’m going to do just that.
Also, people are really kind. I always knew people were kind, but I’ve never experienced it like this before.
I’ve gotten cards and emails from strangers. A family friend I hadn’t spoken to in years sent me money in case I have to quit working.
The other night, a neighbor from up the street made chili and brought me over a cup of it. Another neighbor watered my plants in a shared community garden.
A friend of mine has hosted me and some of my colleagues at her home for Sunday night dinners ever since I moved to Charleston (a great act of kindness in itself). She had not hosted them for a while because of the pandemic. Recently, after regulations loosened up a bit, she moved the entire dinner to the rooftop deck of her condo. She put everyone at different tables several feet apart for social distancing and encouraged everyone to wear masks. All so I could safely attend.
I found my name on the emailed prayer list at Christ United Methodist Church, which is my church even though I’m an infrequent attender at best. I could go on like this, with example after example of people being kind, but you get the picture. People are really kind.
When this is over, I don’t want to forget their kindness. I want to find a way to repay it in some way.

Column: You don’t have to say the right thing

In the first couple weeks after I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March, telling my friends about my illness felt a lot like dropping a bomb or tearing something down.
With each person I let in on the news, I had a mental image of Miley Cyrus in the video for the song “Wrecking Ball.”
“I came in like a wrecking ball,” she sings, straddling the demolition tool as it swings. (If you don’t get the Miley Cyrus reference, I’m sorry. Maybe I’m more sorry if you do get it.)
What I mean is that when my friends asked me how I was doing, they were likely expecting updates about my work or relationship or some other mundane details about my life.
They did not expect me to tell them I have cancer. Bad news like that felt like a wrecking ball or a bomb to drop in a conversation. It just stopped it cold.
A couple of friends found out after they sent me a text message, just to check on me, knowing that a global pandemic can be a hectic time to work for a local health department.
“How are you doing?” they asked, innocently. I knew that with social distancing guidelines in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wouldn’t get the chance to share the news with them over dinner or coffee any time soon. Texting them the news felt like a better idea than for them to find out over social media. (Though social media may have been a better alternative to them finding out by reading about it in a newspaper column)
So I texted them my bad news: “I’ve been diagnosed with stage two breast cancer.” I also called and told a couple of friends, and even told my parents the news over the phone. My mom had known about my tests though, so it wasn’t nearly a surprise for her.
There are better ways to tell your friends and loved ones you have a life-threatening illness, but there’s not any wrong way. If there’s a guidebook that explains the best ways to tell people about something bad like having cancer, I’ve not read it.
More importantly, I wasn’t expecting my friends to have the perfect response when they got the news.
I can think of some bad ways to respond. I wouldn’t say, “Well, we’re all going to die of something.” But there’s not a perfect response to getting news like that. I have not read the guidebook for that either.
I mostly don’t remember exactly what my friends said to me in those early text messages and phone calls. What I do remember is that they offered their support and love, mostly from afar.
So, if you get news like that from a good friend, this is me letting you off the hook for having the right words to say. There are no right words to say. What matters more is showing your support and love in some way.
While we’re on the subject of the right things to say, I hope my friends don’t ever hesitate to talk to me about what’s going on in their lives. I hope they still feel comfortable talking to me about their long days, work problems or relationship issues. Life is going on around me and I want to hear about my friends’ struggles, even if they think the cancer card trumps anything bad going on in their lives. You cannot compare pain from life to life. It doesn’t work that way.