February marks National Cancer Prevention Month, and we’ve taken time to recognize the importance of cancer prevention and the critical need for research. As someone currently battling malignant melanoma and undergoing chemotherapy treatment, I know this all too well. However, one thing I’ve found that can often be overlooked is the need to provide the 1.6 million Americans who are currently being diagnosed and facing cancer treatment with simple comforts. Basic comfort can truly make all the difference during painful, draining and time-consuming treatments.
What does it mean to give comfort to someone?
To me, giving comfort to someone means to put the needs of another before your own. To me, giving comfort to someone means to wholly and completely give these things without expectations of any kind for yourself or others. It’s a pure giving of love.
I was first diagnosed in 2001. After surgery, I was told it was gone. I was Stage 2 and was told that the cancer was caught early enough that I should be OK. I was scared, and while I had people to comfort me, it was the most difficult time in my life until then. Fast forward to now and once again I’m facing malignant melanoma; only this time at Stage 4 with a terminal diagnosis, which I plan to prove wrong.
I may have cancer, but cancer will never have me. I refuse to let it. I’m a warrior, a fighter, a survivor, and I will never surrender my soul to cancer; regardless of what it may do to my body.
While at Mayo, a backpack …
As I started my first chemotherapy treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., I was presented a backpack from a new charity called Giving Comfort; it was filled with useful things for help me on my journey. As I opened the backpack and carefully removed each item, I recognized the extreme care, thoughtfulness and love with which each item was chosen to be included. This wasn’t merely a bundle of items tossed together; rather it was a planned and carefully thought-out list of useful items for anyone going through cancer.
My favorite items included a small journal in which I could write my first thoughts, useful for reflection on later as I am on this path. Another favorite item was the warm fleece blanket, which not only warms my body, but my soul with the love it represents.
New charities like Giving Comfort, charities that focus on meeting cancer patients where they are, are filling a tremendous void in the lives of many people like me. The day I received my comfort kit and personalized note from a stranger who took the time and care to pack it, a little bit of fear was removed in what was otherwise very lonely time.
The inner journey
Like so many survivors, I believe that the journey through cancer has two parts: the public part that everyone else sees, and then the inner part that only the person going through it sees. We as cancer patients can be surrounded by loved ones and yet feel completely alone. When a stranger reaches out, they reach patients in a way that those closest to us cannot.
While it’s critical to raise awareness and continue to draw attention to the issues and needs for research and new treatments, it is equally important that those going through cancer treatment receive what matters most as they fight their own battles: love, support and comfort.
Ron Schreiner, of Shakopee, is a freelance writer. Currently, he is working on the first of three books. He can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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