Thursday, December 30, 2010

Letter of Encouragement

Hey Folks!

This is a follow on to my Chemo Kits (which I'm now calling "Kindness during Chemo Kits") post. In that post I mention a letter of encouragement. I wrote one for inclusion in a kit going to a friend of mine's family member - newly diagnosed and starting a 6 month long chemo protocol. I don't know if she or her family member will like it. Truly, I don't know if anyone will. Not sure I do!

But I wanted to post it in case you found out about someone and wanted to send them a kit. It is just a starting point, but I tried to convey what we have learned (concisely) with a little encouragement/exhortation. I found out today that exhortation literally means "to come up along side." And that is just what these kits are meant to do - come up along side someone who is dealing with a most devastating prognosis, and give them some comfort as they start their journey.

I look forward to your thoughts!

To: You
From: Me

Subject: Your life with cancer

Dear _____________,

Cancer - the big C. It doesn't matter if you are the one diagnosed or someone you love has been - this word, illness, disease - is devastating. There is just no getting around it. It will be the fight of your life; the fight of your family's life. Because cancer happens to all those around you. I know this because my 4 year old daughter, Sophia, is going through her cancer treatment right now. It was the worst day of my life, when I had to give up the hope it was benign because the attending uttered the word "malignant." I know a little about what you are going through.

But I'm not here to tell you a sob story. I don't believe in comparing who has what, whose symptoms are worse or protocol lengths. Sharing is inevitable in this new "club", but what someone else shares doesn't define your experience. I say this knowing it sometimes help, but more often I find it fills me with fear. So, instead, I want to talk to you about hope. I want to talk to you about love. I want you to know that you have both.

There is no getting around the fact that this will be one of the hardest things you've ever endured. Chemo is hell. Which is why I hope the things in this little "kit" give you even the smallest measure of comfort. I know they have for Sophia - indeed our whole family.

But there is also no getting around the fact that you have a chance, through this process, to be entirely changed for the better. You are not without hope, ever. The cure rates, for both adults and children, have never been higher. There are new drugs and trials being produced all the time. It doesn't matter what stage you are in, you always have hope.

Be your own advocate and rely on your instincts. If something isn't right, tell someone. And keep telling people until something is done to make you comfortable! Tell your caregiver this too - whoever that is has to fight tooth and nail for you! Doctors do not have the last say when it comes down to it!

More than anything - You have a chance, through this process, to experience love unimaginable. Let people serve you, bring you meals, gifts, whatever. Don't be stoic, lean on others. Indeed, let them carry your stretcher like the friends did in Mark 2:3-5. It is your time to be loved on and by doing so - you will enable someone else to be a part of your life (which, right now), they so desperately want to be. By letting others serve you, you become the vessel through which they grow. You bless them as they seek to bless you! It's the crazy flip side of the coin, you have the power to change others. You have much power!!

There will be times when you feel lonely and isolated, but that is when you should remember the words of Christ, from Hebrews 13:5: I will never leave you or forsake you. There have been times in our journey when I just couldn't help anyone anymore. I couldn't take another step, forward or backward. So, I just cried out to Him - telling Him He had to take over. And He does - every time. Cancer puts a lot of things in perspective, especially what is important. Let the other stuff fade away. This is your chance to get close to those who really love you - including The Lord.

I don't know where your relationship with The Lord is, but He does. And He will carry you mind, body and soul through this if you let Him. I have a magnet on my fridge a friend gave me when we got the news, that says, "Faith makes things possible - not easy." And when you add hope and love into that mix, the ending is always happy and the journey made more bearable.

For now, I'll leave you with a couple of quotes that encourage me to keep going. Stand firm, stay strong and fight! It is worth it!

"During chemo, you're more tired than you've ever been. It's like a cloud passing over the sun, and suddenly you're out. You don't know how you'll answer the door when your groceries are delivered. But you also find that you're stronger than you've ever been. You're clear. Your mortality is at optimal distance, not up so close that it obscures everything else, but close enough to give you depth perception. Previously, it has taken you weeks, months, or years to discover the meaning of an experience. Now it's instantaneous." ~Melissa Bank

"When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful." ~Barbara Bloom

"Do not be afraid of tomorrow; for God is already there." ~Author Unknown

And my favorite: “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23

In Faith, Hope and the Greatest Love,

Amy Vogel


CK said...

Amy - this is wonderful, amazing, poignant and timely! Well chosen God-blessed Words for those are fighting the good fight. Do you have the list - do you have some things I can bring specifically? Let me know.
Love and prayers for Sophia's total healing and victory in Jesus Christ!
We love you,
The Kalmbachs

MB said...

Well said, and so much appreciated!

joyce said...

Amy, I continue to pray for Sophia, you, and your family. Your writing is lovely! Joyce