I was at a lab corp yesterday to get blood work and had to call Hopkins because they hadn’t sent over the order yet. A few minutes after I got off the phone, a woman who was leaving came up to me, touched my leg and said “I overheard you are going through chemo and I wanted to tell you I’m praying for you and everything is going to be okay, baby. Stay strong!” and then she gave me a big bear hug. This woman was so genuine, our interaction brought tears to my eyes. After she left, all I could think was: “why on earth do I not have the strength to let myself be as vulnerable as she just was with me?” [and also how I wish I was cool enough to pull off calling a stranger ‘baby’ …but that’s a whole other discussion].
Asking myself this question, I thought back to attending chemo class (its exactly what you’d expect, a 1-hour introductory course for people just getting started), and how I felt compelled to reach out to another attendee; a beautiful young woman, younger than me – probably 18 or so - with lots of freckles and curly auburn hair. Throughout the entire class, I kept thinking to myself, “give her your contact information, give her your contact information.” But I never did. I was afraid of being presumptuous.
I’ve thought about her so many times since then and I deeply regret not approaching her, especially now.
People who know me, know I’m guarded. I’m a pessimist when it comes to most things, especially humanity.
I had so much anxiety about telling family, friends, coworkers and posting about my diagnosis on social media. I was like Monica in that episode of Friends when she has to call Rachel’s mom and invite her to the baby shower last minute…
I worried about people coping with the news. I worried about people thinking I’m over-sharing. I worried about people judging me for my distasteful humor or judging me based on their own perception of my coping. The list goes on but I know now that all of this worrying was absolutely, positively, 100% dumb.
It has blown my mind how incredible people have been. I cannot articulate how much the outpour of love and support has meant to me. Everything from the woman at lab corp yesterday, to the amazing gofundme page my coworkers put together for me (that I can’t even think about without crying), to the countless texts, messages and emails. We have had so many people offer up their couches and spare bedrooms in and around Baltimore, offer rides to and from Hopkins, offer to bring us meals, help with our upcoming move and SO SO SO much more.
I don’t have many words to express my awe, but what I can offer is this fact: I have cried more tears of joy, appreciation and amazement in the kindness of others than tears of sadness and fear since my diagnosis. I hope this says as much to you as it does to me. You all have given me immeasurable strength. You have convinced me that I need to turn my [cancerous] ass around and start having a lot more faith in mankind and the goodness of others. You have shown me that it’s okay to be vulnerable with a stranger; it’s okay to leave behind my “mind your own business” attitude; it’s okay to not care so damn much about what others might think of your actions, as long as they are genuine and true.
So, I’m making a promise to myself and to everyone reading this: the next time I’m in a situation like the one in chemo class, I WILL be vulnerable. I will listen to my gut and reach out, lend a hand or sentiment of love and support. I will stop being so pessimistic about mankind.
And, you better believe if I ever run into that gorgeous freckled face girl again at Hopkins - I don’t care if she is half way across the hospital and I have to sprint after her - I will approach her and say something to the effect of: “I don’t know if you remember me, but we were in chemo class together. I’m not exactly sure why, maybe because we are both females too young to be facing cancer, but I felt compelled to reach out to you. At the time, I was too afraid to say something to you but I’m over that now. So, I want to give you my phone number and if you need anything or just want to talk to someone in a similarly shitty situation, I’m here. I’m praying for you and everything is going to be okay, baby. Stay strong!”
Here's to everyone who has supported me since my diagnosis. I love you all. <virtual hugs>