I am sure you have heard the African Proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well let me just say – It takes a village to recovery from a mastectomy too. To say I traveled that road alone would be a lie. Nor would I have wanted to travel that road alone. It took more people than I could possibly name. So for simplicity, let’s just call them – my village.
My village stepped in to organize and provide well over a month’s worth of meals after my mastectomy. We haven’t arrived there yet, but I had many more surgeries. Each time, they provided meals. Not only did they bring my husband and I meals, they took meals to my in-laws who were caring for my children.
My village stayed with me to give my husband a break. The first week post-mastectomy my husband predominantly took care of me. The second week I had a revolving schedule of villagers providing 24/7 care for me.
I was never alone. I mentioned my husband slept on the couch next to me as I slept in my recliner, but so did my village. They set alarms to give me meds. Helped lift me from the recliner. Drove me to and from doctor’s appointments. Sat with me at doctor’s appointments. Suggested we go for ice cream sundaes after tough doctor’s appointments (a practice I have now adopted for my kids too).
They visited me at my home. Sat with me. Talked with me. Texted. Called. Brought me lunch. Left surprises at my door. Magazines. Books. Their favorite movies and TV shows. Flowers. Cards. Baked goods. Groceries. Gifts. Truly an embarrassment of riches and an overwhelming outpouring of love and support!
I found my villagers who were enthusiastic about plastic surgery especially encouraging. My road to reconstruction would be paved with plastic surgery. Hearing their own experiences and even secret hopes to fix this or that, encouraged me. Some even teased me, jealous of my “forced mommy makeover.”
They told me how amazing I would look when it was all over. Their enthusiasm couldn’t help but wear off on me. Don’t get me wrong, I am so unbelievably grateful for plastic surgery, but it wasn’t something I had ever desired before breast cancer. Their enthusiasm helped me make peace with this reality. They encouraged me to think of the end results, not just the difficultly of the day-to-day journey.
They showed up and that is what was most important. My boob-voyage served as a rally-cry letting my village know I was about to need them. They went above and beyond answering that call.
If you know someone who is facing a major medical diagnosis or journey my biggest suggestion is to be there for them. Trust me, it will mean more to them than they can adequately express. You will lift their spirits.
You don’t need to buy them expensive gifts. Gift them with your presence and your time. Reach out to them via phone calls, texts, emails, messages, but also just physically show up. That is the best gift you can give.
The question has been raised – what about my kids? Where were they? How did they cope? They went through this breast cancer journey too.
It took a village to help my children along my breast cancer journey too. They helped drive my kids to and from school. They watched my kids. They encouraged and supported my kids during a difficult time for them too.
My children’s journey is deserving of a post all its own…