Last night, after going to a cooking demonstration and having the dinner afterwards arranged by my friend Joe, who also invited Deb and Judy, I thought about the community that surrounds me, supports me, and helps me. Obviously, Joe is one part of that and the fact that he arranged this event for us was touching to me, and fun.
My family is, of course, number one here, but there are so many people I have known through various avenues – from work, from yoga, friends, Alan’s friends, meeting while skiing or at parties, who are part of my community. While I know there are some people who, having cancer, keep it quiet, share only with their family and do not want to talk about it, I am not one of those. Nor have I ever been someone who holds back. I am someone who wants to have a community wherever I am; thus, at the two yoga studios I go to, I talk to the people there, ask them to have tea, get to know them and keep u with them. My husband marvels at this – I have gone to one near my house only a couple of years for a classes of perhaps two per week, while continuing my main Ashtanga practice with my long time teacher, Matthew. At the one near my house, within months I knew many of the people in the class, talked with them, and they have become friends. This is also true of the teachers there. My husband has been going to the same studio since 2008. He says that while he sees many of the same people there, he does not talk to them. He goes into the yoga room, does his yoga and leaves. One time when I went with him and my kids to his studio, my kids told me not to embarrass them and talk to everyone. I said okay, but broke the promise when I got there, because I knew people there, and of course, had to say hello and catch up. Perhaps my wanting a community comes from having my extended family surround me as a child – and feeling loved and protected, albeit sometimes too closely watched- by them. I do not know, but I know that it is important to me.
My kids now say that all of my socializing has paid me a benefit; that people I have reached out to over the years are now paying it forward with me. This was not the intent of my reaching out. It is just who I am to want to know people and to connect. I now have a large community of people caring for my welfare, asking about me, doing things with me, making me soup and food, and just being there either in person or through calls, texts and e-mails. This community sustains me. Since my diagnosis I have continued to talk to new people I meet, including in yoga, and some now know I have cancer and am fighting it, planning to survive. They ask me how I am doing, how long my chemo will continue, how rough it was on me.
My openness about my cancer surprises some people. Not only do I freely talk about my experience in this blog, but I freely talk about it to people I know. When someone compliments my hair I tell them thank you, its a great wig and better than my own hair in many respects (and the bonus is that I use no hair products, do not have to get haircuts and never have a bad hair day.) Whens someone tentatively reaches out and says they learned I have cancer and they do not want to bother me, I immediately tell them it is not a bother and I welcome the fact they are reaching out. While I know not everyone wants to be this open, it is part of who I am and it actually helps me to talk about the challenges of fighting cancer.
Every chemo day, people who are keeping track of my dates for chemo reach out to me by text and e-mail, wishing me luck and asking if they can help. While I dread chemo (and it is getting more brutal as time goes one), I smile at these virtual hugs.
Thanks you to those of you who are part of this community of support. You are a blessing to me.