Stop saying “that doesn’t apply to me”

I’m guilty of doing this, and often. Call it self-preservation, a defense mechanism, or a survival tactic to shut out all the noisy extras that compete for the finite amount of cognitive energy I can muster on any given day.

Today though, I met a colleague that I didn’t really know that well at all for lunch. A mutual passion for breast cancer research brought us together, and I’m so thankful for the eye-opening conversation that followed.

While we spent much of our time discussing the finer points of what it means to live with (and care for someone living with) breast cancer, our conversation helped illuminate for me an important point.

There are countless ways to serve the community of those impacted, even if breast cancer doesn’t affect you directly. The real a-ha! moment was after lunch, as I reflected on our conversation and took inventory of all the ways one can serve this population, which of course isn’t limited to breast cancer alone.

It made me realize I should slow my scroll (and my roll) when I learn about someone facing a crummy life season.

Share information about access to care

Of course, breast cancer is what I know, so naturally my first instincts take me there. As committed to it as I am, I learned at lunch today something else I can be doing to (hopefully) make the experience less traumatic for those who don’t know it yet, but will soon become part of the newly diagnosed.

That entails spreading the word about where free mammograms are available in our respective communities. The cost of having one is taken for granted by many. Logically I knew this, but it didn’t really register that I could do anything about it.

I just haven’t given much thought (until now) about the barrier this can create for others, many of whom can be spared intrusive, aggressive treatment regimens through the power of early detection.

Donate high quality, useful items, not just your household rejects (or the cheapest thing you can buy)

For all cancers, another difference-making effort stems from an understanding of the fact that not all chemo centers are rich in amenities. If you’ve ever set foot in one, you also know they are depressing as hell. Again, another fruitful takeaway from our lunch discussion reminded me of this practical way we can serve.

Why not donate items that will make the treatment bays more bearable? Think cozy blankets, scarves made of soft material and warm hats in various shapes and sizes, all of them in colors, textures and fabrics that can appeal to both men and women. Even device and earbud sets loaded with Wordl or other amusements (not all treatment centers provide free WiFi), handheld crossword and Sudoku booklets, and fiction/non-fiction books spanning various genres.

Blunt P.S. I’ll share here. People love to talk up how they can give you a ride to or from treatment, or even sit with you during the infusion, but here’s the unfiltered truth. Sometimes (a lot of the time), you don’t want to have to be “on”, as the Brave and Plucky Cancer Patient or otherwise, or to expend the energy to have a conversation, or to even feel somebody’s eyes on you (even if it’s a friend’s eyes).

The very idea of someone assessing your every expression, word or move is downright exhausting, and it’s often the quiet desire of many a cancer patient, however unpopular the opinion, to be left the hell alone.

Care for the caregiver(s)

We can also find ways to pour into the caregivers in our midst, offering to sit with their loved one for a spell so they can take a much-needed physical and mental break from around-the-clock care (PSA for those unexperienced with hospice care – they don’t stay all day, every day).

After our lunch, I thought about these things, and how many ways we can use our time and our treasures to see the good and be the good that this world so desperately needs.

I also felt pretty convicted about the fact that I often default to “that doesn’t apply to me,” telling myself I cannot do all the things and that others with a more personal connection to the situation will step up.

While I whole-heartedly acknowledge that none of us can champion all the causes without completely losing our sense of self (and our sanity), I’m now operating with a heightened sense of awareness to listen and look out for specific needs. I should never be too preoccupied to follow through with some form of tangible support for those who are hurting.

One last P.S. – Find a colleague (or a friend if you’re a stay-at-homer) that you don’t know very well and make it a point to get acquainted! You never know what you may discover that you have in common, and the good that can come from it.

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