FRIENDS:  Where did everybody go?  Get ready for this, it often happens... someone gets breast cancer and suddenly they are alone.  Not always.  If you're actively involved in a church, or have members of family nearby, things sometimes go alright.  But even then, you'll find a few people with every excuse in the book not to see you.

Try to not let it get you down.  Some people are just afraid.  Although they KNOW cancer isn't catching, they tend to avoid being around it anyway.  I heard every excuse in the book, lol...  My least favorite was, "I wanted to remember you the way you were."  HELLO!  I wasn't planning on dying if I could help it, or growing a new head.  I did everything possible to stay looking the same so that others would be comfortable around me, in fact.  I wore a wig, put on makeup, dressed well, and still went for one six week period after my hair fell out, where not a single human being (other than hubby and myself, and our small dog who THINKS she's human!) entered my front door.  I'm not going to say it didn't hurt.  It did.  A lot.

I merely invited people for a visit in the beginning, and toward the end, I was BEGGING shamelessly on a daily basis, to no avail.  There were many afternoons where I crossed another day off the calendar after someone had said they were coming and didn't... again...  I would often lay with my face to the wall unable to stop crying, with my poor husband patting me on the back, speechless, because he'd never expected it either.  We'd always gone when any of our friends called us for help in the past, for any reason, and yet.... suddenly, we didn't know what to think.

I debated with myself whether to write that here, but I think you really need to know that sometimes it happens, and to try to tell you what may help.  First of all, if this has already happened to you then I know you're hurting and craving for normalcy to return.  You feel 'out of the loop' with your friends and the world in general.  It's as if everyone has 'moved on' and left you behind as if you're already gone from their lives. 

I know you are wondering what you've done wrong, how you could have been so mistaken, thinking you had lots of friends.  Please, believe me, they are not trying to hurt you and they have not abandoned you forever.  They'll come back.  You just have to remember that this is not just your problem, it's their problem with dealing with your problem.  They may be having just as much pain dealing with knowing how sick you are, as you are.  Forgive them, please, it does you no good to let it depress you further.

I found that in my case, people did start coming around me again.  Of course, by the time they did, I'd already finally given up on putting on wigs and makeup every single day, so a few found me quite bald and probably looking as yucky as they'd been afraid of, but I no longer cared by then.  Everyone else could just deal with their fears, I had.

During the time I was so lonely, one of the most important things in my life were the few email friends who did everything in their power to keep me involved and encourage me.  A woman who I always dearly loved, from where I used to work, emailed me daily.  She also was ill and had a disabled husband, both were stuck at home, so she KNEW what it was like and did all in her power to improve my life.  She was my angel, still is. My 'almost sister'.  She'd call me and know just what irreverent thing to say to make me laugh, caring and yet tough on me when she needed to be, to keep me fighting.

There was another email angel, too, another 'almost sister' I'd never even met.  Also one of the most special people you could imagine.  An international friend, who must have burned through her savings sending me the most wonderful gifts and cards and books to cheer me on, delightful pink-wrapped packages of wonder arriving in the mail almost weekly, anything from tasty sweets like she'd enjoyed as a child and hoped would tempt me, to the most wonderful books on tape by Jan Karon (get them to occupy your mind, you won't be sorry! Karon's Father Tim and Mitford series of books take you away to a gentler world) and, well, I couldn't name all the things that she thought of to send. 

It was amazing how this woman who has never met me face to face, seemed to always know exactly what would make me smile, as if she had always been my closest friend ever.  You know what?  SHE knew what it was like.  Her closest friend had passed away from breast cancer not long before I became ill. She took what she knew from her experience there, and made my life so much better here. It gave me hope and brightened my life, even on the darkest days.

I'd give anything if I could afford somehow to do the same thing these angels and more did for me, for everyone else going through breast cancer.  Since I can't, my gift can only be through this website, where I hope to pass along some comfort in some way, to others who are going through this.  No one should feel alone, so please, breathe deeply, take in the comfort and love that your friends and I send to you whether by this note, by email, or in person, and smile.  You never know what angels God may already have placed in your life, look for them, and let them in.

A good way to reduce your depression right this very day is to stay busy.  Try it.  Clean out a bureau drawer, if nothing else.  If you have to sit on the floor to do it, fine.  If you can't stand long enough to clean out the bathroom shelves, then bring boxes of stuff that need sorting to your bed or chair and do it.  Little by little, as you accomplish one thing after another that you've put off forever, and WISHED you had time for... your mind will get over the sadness of being alone so much of the time, and your interests will go in other directions. 

Realizing that my mood had
clearly been becoming much too depressed and a little sunlight could help, I chose to do things outdoors.  I'd wait until my dear husband lay down for his afternoon nap, and I was on the move!  He was too ill at the time from his heart condition and debilitating Rheumatoid Arthritis to stay up and watch me every minute, so I'd promise dutifully to stay out of trouble while he napped in the afternoons. 

When he awoke, he'd find that I'd tippy-toed outside, dragged a little tarp along, and sat on the ground pruning anything I could reach in the yard.  There I'd be, floppy hat, long sleeves, gloves, and knee pads.  I hardly had strength to stand, so I'd crawl from spot to spot, dragging my little tarp along behind me every so often, until it was full of trimmings from bushes and small trees.

Of course, maybe, possibly, it wasn't exactly the smartest thing to do, because before long I was too weak to get up and was often stuck out there alone until he awoke and came looking for his wandering patient, lol...  Bless his heart, he'd come find me, fuss a little, help me up so we could both toddle back inside, and then...we'd play the same game all over again the next day.

That may sound dumb, but it kept me busy and improved my mood so much.  That was something in life that I accomplish all on my own, and it made me feel good, reminding me that I didn't always need other people to make me feel better, I could do it myself.

If you are reading this and know someone who is going through chemotherapy, please do realize that their ordeal didn't end with the surgery, they may have many months of treatment, and every single day feels like it's a week long, some bad ones are a month.  Chemo isn't like surgery, where you get a little better every day afterward.  You actually usually feel progressively WORSE as it goes along through the cycles of chemo, so it gets harder to keep cheerful without something to be cheered by.

There was not one minute that I'd not have appreciated the smallest visit from anyone.  If you are someone who is going through this yourself, please don't be upset with your friends. You may have even treated someone the same way yourself in the past and didn't realize it. 

Maybe you used the excuse that 'they're tired and weak, they won't want company'.  Until it happens to YOU, you don't understand how desperately company is needed, how strengthening any scrap of human contact is.  Cancer is a scary thing, but it's made easier by a friend's laughter and a nice normal chat.  There simply is not a bad time for a visit, anytime is good.

This can't be reinforced too much though, do try to remember that this is only temporary. Your life will be back to normal eventually, and you can keep this as a learning experience.  Treat everyone as you'd like to be treated.  Take time for your friends.  That's one of the most important things I took away from my experiences.  I never rush past even a stranger now.  They all have a story of their own.

You know how sometimes you meet someone in the store and they try to strike up a conversation?  Once I'd have said a word or two and walked on, always in a hurry, always another job to do.  Now, I look them square in the face and listen, really listen.  Know what?  I enjoy listening to them now.  If nothing else, my experiences changed me into wanting to be a better person, and I'd go through the loneliness again rather than being the person in the rush I used to be.  There's nothing more important in life than another human being, and life is so short.  I see that now.

As for cancer returning?  I don't want to, but if I have to go through this again, not such a problem next time.  I know now that God will take care of me, and I've always got plenty of bushes that need pruning.  :^)