So some of you will enjoy hearing about an experience I had the other day. I got to work and decided to run out to my favorite coffee shop to grab a take out cup of caffeine. (What could go wrong?) As I was walking down the street, one of my students rode by on his bike and called out my name. I turned and had a short conversation with him as he pedaled down the street. Here’s what I learned: It’s not a good idea to continue walking while you are turning to talk to someone who is behind you. Just as I turned my head forward I collided with a very large street lamp pole. While everything flew out of my hands and I may or may not have blacked out for a moment or two…I did recover fairly gracefully. And hey…no need for the $7.00 cup of coffee. I was wide awake. (By the way…this is not why I titled this post “Reach Out and Touch.” More on that later.)
So, time for an update. Last Thursday I met with my oncologist. We discovered that it was the 2 year anniversary of taking my daily oral chemo meds. (No cake or champagne was consumed.) The good news is that my blood tests and a check of my lymph nodes show that the meds are still doing their job. Yes! I continue to feel good and am fortunate to experience almost no side effects. (Oh…and among the many comforting neon warnings on my pill dispenser, with “toxic” and “biohazard” being constants….this month they added “Do not handle if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.” Whew….dodged that bullet!)
Although this is my 2 year medication anniversary, it’s been nearly 3 1/2 years since I was diagnosed. So many ups and downs – even without a light pole in my path! I know that I have written about this before, but for a variety of reasons this has been on my mind a lot lately – the importance of staying connected and supportive of people who have experienced something traumatic – a death, a diagnosis of a chronic illness, mental health struggles, etc. When the initial trauma occurs, many of us are surrounded by supportive friends and family. However, as time goes by…people move on with their lives – even if the effects of the trauma have not. I’ve been really fortunate. I have many people in my life who consistently show their support. Maybe that’s partially a result of writing this blog. I try to let people know what they can do and say that will be helpful – things I too am learning along the way. I realize that it is hard to know how to be helpful.
So, if you haven’t yet clicked on Diana Ross’ classic version of “Reach Out and Touch,” I want to urge you to do so and listen carefully to the words. It’s a beautiful song…and a wonderful reminder that life does not “move on” for many people and we all benefit when we continue to show our love and support. Trauma and grief don’t have an expiration date. So, call a friend. Send a text to let them know you love them. Ask someone to join you for coffee and don’t expect them to be cheery. Indeed, don’t hold them to any expectations at all. As Diana Ross sings:
Take a little time out of your busy day To give encouragement To someone who's lost the way Or would I be talking to a stone If I asked you To share a problem that's not your own We can change things if we start giving Why don't you Reach out and touch Somebody's hand Make this world a better place If you can
I try and often fail. I tell myself that life gets busy…and it does. And then I think about how thankful I am to all of you who ask how I am doing and really listen to my answer. Thank you. I hope we can all take the time to reach out and touch. It matters……..
Do the best you can until you know better.
Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou