What To Do–Make Eye Contact

I’m super excited to introduce What to Do Wednesdays to all of you.

Many times when people are hit with that dreaded “C” word, the patient, family, friends alike have no idea what to do. How to help or even where to start.

We’re hoping that this weekly post will give many of you ideas on how you can help in the most productive ways. These will cover everything from social interaction, things to do, recipes, and general feedback so let’s begin…

2015 12 30 Dr Seuss Eyes
With the end of 2015 quickly approaching, so many of us are writing down (either literally or mentally) those over the top resolutions we’re going to accomplish in 2016. (i.e. Lose 75 pounds by Spring Break, find a new job that pays double, but has less responsibility, organize my entire house, eat only organic foods, clean up my potty mouth, etc).

They are all very well intentioned and obtainable, but what I’ve found is many of these resolutions are the ultimate goals. No one ever talks about the journey to get there or the small goals and accomplishments that happen along the way. It’s always the eyes on the prize–the big prize.

Problem is, if the only thing you focus on is the end result, the after picture as it were, then you’ll never get there. It takes work to achieve any goal and fighting cancer, whether you’re the patient or the caregiver, can feel like an everyday uphill battle.

As a person looking from the outside in, it can be extremely difficult to know what to do for those dealing with cancer.
Do I say something?
Do I do something?
What do I do?
Do I even know them well enough to get involved?
I don’t know them at all, so do I really need to do anything?

Here’s the deal. Just like those New Year’s Resolutions we’re all going to set, but many will have no actual plan to accomplish, it starts with small, purposeful steps. Understand, when helping or addressing those that are fighting cancer, Nothing you do has to be grandiose.

It can be the small gestures that can speak volumes. I’ve learned this as Seana has been so gracious to share her thoughts, feelings, and experiences with me about her journey with Ovarian Cancer.
There were things I hadn’t even considered or understood, which brings me to my first tip of what to do when someone you know/work with/see is affected by cancer.

Make eye contact

2015 12 30 Eye Strength

When people are diagnosed with cancer, people around them stop making eye contact with them.
People at work, people at their church, their friends, people they’ve talked to at the grocery store each week, other parents in the carpool—the list goes on and on.
You think, “oh not me. I wouldn’t avoid looking at someone who’s been diagnosed with this.”
Really? It’s hard. It’s hard to look at someone after that crappy news and act like things are peachy keen. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done because it’s done everyday, but understand it’s hard. It’s difficult for the person you’re looking at as well as yourself because the things you weren’t thinking about yesterday  (cancer) are on your mind today.
This especially holds true when the chemotherapy has caused hair loss and I mean every stinking strand of hair from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Eyelashes, eyebrows, arm hair, pubic hair, every kind of hair falls out and this can be visually confusing to those around the person going through it, but don’t turn away.
Do you best not to make that cringe face or with tear-filled eyes. Simply talk to this person, keep the lines of communication open.

If you’ve always known the person, keep talking to them, make eye contact, ask them the same questions you always ask:
Did you watch Grandfathered last night? Isn’t John Stamos gorgeous?
Have you seen that new Star Wars movie? Why don’t they have any Rey action figures at Target?
Did you get that last TPS report?
Did you want anything from Starbucks?

Many who are hit with the “C” word go through a lot of introspection, wonder what they did “wrong”, curse themselves for not eating enough salad–scratch that–not enough organic salad, for being mean to that kid who picked his nose in the third grade, I should have taken that multivitamin everyday, I shouldn’t have looked at those Playboy magazines…the list is endless. There are many, many things that race through their minds like that endless (and annoying) ticker tape that runs across the bottom on the screen of newscasts.

Those who’ve been hit in the face with this diagnosis have enough going on without people avoiding them. Without losing human contact with the people they see on a daily basis. The simple act of looking someone in the eyes can speak volumes.
2015 12 30 Eyes and Audrey







I hope this helps. Come back each week to read another tip on how to help and what to do for those who are dealing with cancer.

Thanks for reading.


The New “Normal”

As I journey the winding road of recovery with the goal of staying in remission, I find that what was once normal does not feel normal anymore.  For example:

* I do not like chocolate anymore – seriously.  This is weird but ever since I had my surgeries back in September, I have not wanted chocolate.  I can eat an Oreo every now and then but honestly, that’s not “real” chocolate so it’s taste is o.k. with me. I don’t eat them often and when I do, it’s only one.

* I am no longer the carb addict I once was.  I am a southern gal at heart and I used to love biscuits, grits, and gravy.  I couldn’t get enough bread or pasta and I certainly never met a dough that I didn’t like. Now, I don’t want all that.  If I have a veggie or turkey burger, I opt for a lettuce wrap rather than the bun. I can enjoy a slice of fruit pie but those indulgences are few and far between.

* I get tired easily – is this because I’ve become a couch potato?  No. It is because surgeries, chemo, and any other medications that have been pumped into me have altered my physical makeup.  Literally.  It will take me a while to rebuild my stamina but I will not rush it.

* I ask for help now.  Before being diagnosed, I was of the opinion that if I asked for help, my fear was that I would be seen as weak, lacking ability, and that I would be judged for not being able to do it “all” by myself.  In reality, I have learned that it is actually a sign of strength to ask for help.

* I do not care what others’ opinions are of me.  OK, for those that know me, this is not new.  However, whenever it came to my kiddo, I tried very hard to make sure I presented a smiling face no matter what when in the presence of other parents because I wanted to belong to the “cool parent club.”  I didn’t say “no” when someone needed a volunteer at school, scouts, or church functions. I overbooked myself – that old saying “If you want something done, ask a busy person” was my life.  I now say “no” without remorse and often without explanation.  I am still polite but if I feel tired, it’s o.k. to say so if someone asks how I am doing.  If I need to sit down, I do it rather than trying to tough it out.  I no longer fear that someone is going to turn his/her nose up at me and think less of me for being honest.

So does all this mean that I am not normal?  No, it means that the needle has moved and this is my new “normal.”  In reality, it likely should have been my “normal” all along but it took being diagnosed with cancer for me to realize it. And I have learned that I am a cool parent. I am a mom who has battled cancer and is still here to raise the kiddo. I have shown everyone – especially my son – that I am strong person who has a desire to live and who has put her mind and body to it to beat this stupid disease.  If I can do this, there is nothing that can stop him from setting goals and shooting for his dreams.  What’s cooler than that???

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