On Thursday of last week I went to work planning to spend the day meeting with an expert witness, working with him on his testimony, and working all day. It was bosses day and when I arrived in my office there was a vase of fresh flowers from my administrative assistant, Patty. The fact that it was bosses day figured into the event that my office had planned for me but that I did not know was going to happen. I was working with my expert when Laura, my sweet friend at work, who just lost her mother to pancreatic cancer and is still grieving that loss, came to interrupt us, told us that the building was having coffee and donuts for bosses day and my expert said he wanted to go down and get a donut. Little did I know what was coming. They totally conspired on the secret. Laura took me down by elevator, which I usually do not do – I usually take the stairs. When the elevator doors opened I saw my entire office, more than 80 people, standing in the atrium on the first floor. They immediately began clapping, and I saw a sign that said “Welcome To Marilyn’s Tea Party” on an easel. I was floored, totally surprised and so overwhelmed that I burst into tears. I learned later that Laura had told my expert the day before about this plan, and they planned the ruse that day.
It was so special. There was a very long table laid out with antique tea cups and pots, that people in the office had brought in. Mike, the head of our estate group, told me that the teacups he had brought in were ones he bought his mother many years ago for Mother’s Day, shopping with his dad. There were flowers, tea sandwiches and scones. There was a harpist playing, which I did not even notice because I was so overwhelmed, and people kept coming up to hug me. I only knew about the harpist when my office manager, Sue, sent me photos of the event. The sign had notes on the back written by people in my office to me, was covered in fabric and made by Sara in our office for me. People kept coming up to me to hug me, to say how much they cared and that they wanted me to know they were behind me in my fight. Others told me this blog is inspirational and really touches them. I barely got to the table to look at the teacups and grab scones.
Apparently, this event had been in the planning stages for some weeks and everyone but me knew about it. They did a very good job keeping the surprise. Alan and Sue talked about it, and his job was to make sure I was in the office that day at 11:00 a.m. We had a contractor coming over to clean our stone work and seal it. When I offered to stay for a couple of hours in the morning Alan insisted I go to work. Now I know why he did not take me up on my offer. Sue took the lead on planning the tea party, but everyone in the office said they wanted to do something for me to show their support and encouragement in this fight, and many people helped pitch in with the planning. The people in my office have already shown their support. Every time I go into my office everyone who sees me checks on me, asks how I am doing, says how great I look and they are praying for me or otherwise sending good thoughts to me. I have received e-mails, notes, gifts from so many of them already. They are fully behind me as I fight the cancer. I told them at the tea party that this support strengthens my resolve to fight this cancer and survive long term.
I was so emotional about this event. Every time I told someone about it, I cried. I posted photos on Facebook, and e-mailed other friends. Not only did Judy and Deb come, but my former, now retired office manager, Carole, came, and Kim, who has been a stay at home mom for seven years, but used to work with us. My now retired administrative assistant, Becky, sent me a note from North Carolina that even though she could not be there in person, she was there in spirit, which, of course, made me cry again. She also sent a teacup and saucer to remind me of the tea party. Jen and Amy, who have been wonderful to me, were not able to come, and sent me a silver Buddha necklace I wore the next day to work and over the weekend. It is clearly a tribute to my yoga practice and shows how thoughtful they have been and continue to be. Even as I write this, I tear up at the thoughtfulness and planning that went into the tea party, and the absolute show of support from the whole office. I feel so blessed to work with and know these people and have them in my life. I feel so blessed by their love and concern.
In many ways I am so lucky that through having this cancer I see and hear what people think of me, and how much they care. In everyday life we often do not take the time to tell people how we feel about them; we just go on with our lives assuming they know. Cancer changes that equation as people want to support you, want to do something for you, and as a result tell you that you are special to them. Although, clearly, I wish I did not have to bear this burden and deal with cancer, I also realize again, the silver lining I discussed in an earlier post. Without the cancer, the tea party would likely not have happened, and although I knew I had many friends at work, I would not have heard from them how much they cared. The tea party showed me that everyone in my office is in my corner, wants to do something to help me in my fight and wants me to know it. How lucky am I that I am the recipient of their concerns. I love them all. I will survive and continue to run my office. On to the next chemo….