I made my cancer diagnosis public about a week after the initial diagnosis. Not only did I need support, but I knew my family needed our community to rally around them. I am continually amazed at the outpouring of love that you give us. Knowing that thousands of people were praying for me lifted my spirits in those especially dark days and still makes me feel stronger when the sadness hits on certain dark nights.
Once I learned that my breast density made all those annual mammograms I had received worthless I became determined to empower women to know their breast density and demand the screenings they need to find breast cancer in early stages, when it is treatable. I fervently hope that going public with my story will help prevent someone else from a breast cancer diagnosis when it is already stage IV and spread too many places to survive. I share quite a bit with you, including personal details about my physical and mental health. I do it because I never had the chance to learn that people can be diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer even after dutifully getting annual mammograms. Oh how I wish I had known more back then…
I was never a person who asked for help often. (My friend, Sara, just spit out her coffee when she read that.) I am learning that the acts of giving and receiving are both vital to our humanity. Giving my time and talents to others was engrained in me as a child. Now I am learning that it is equally challenging to ask for and accept the service of others because I don’t want to seem weak and needy. My family is often asked how people can help me. I am going to share some things that are very helpful to us.
- Nothing is better than the act of prayer. I believe in the power of prayer and can tell when you are all bombarding God with a particular request for me. I know small children who include me in their bedtime prayers. You all humble me with your prayer perseverance.
- I am a huge fan of snail mail. I love opening our post office box to see a bright splash of an envelope. Knowing you took the time to sign and mail me good wishes brings a smile to my day. I have every card I have received since my diagnosis and I often go through the box on those dark, lonely nights when cancer is too much for my heart to handle.
- I love opening up my phone in the chemo pod to read your texts and other online messaging. It makes me feel like I’m not so far away.
- I enjoy people coming to visit me on days I feel good, especially when the weather is nice and we can sit on my oasis. Please understand when I say, “Yes, if I feel good.” That means I cannot always make plans in advance and/or may cancel plans at the last minute. Some days I do pretty well and other days cancer decides to kick my butt. You have to be able to tolerate cats on the oasis because when the barn cats see a lap, they must sit in it. Please understand when I set limits on the duration of your visit. Cancer fatigue can hit hard after 3 years of treatment.
- Dave works nights so our meal schedule is weird. Frozen meals from Pioletti’s Tasting Room is a terrific local option we love. Everything they make is delicious and we can prepare it according to our weird eating schedule. We have a family dinner every Sunday evening for the immediate family. That would be a great time to have a freezer or refrigerator meal to throw in the oven or a dessert to serve. We are generally okay with food since Dave has always done the majority of the cooking. (Choose your life partners wisely!)
- All my cancer care happens at Barnes Hospital/Washington University/Siteman Cancer Center in downtown St. Louis, a 3.5 hour drive from the farm. We purchased a gas-friendly car after my diagnosis to try to cut down on gas expenses, but always appreciate help in that area. At a minimum we make that trip every three weeks.
- For extra fuzzy care, I love plants and flowers and coffee. In fact, I am going to be using a coffee gift card from a church friend in a little bit. Iced caramel coffee is love in a cup.