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Cancer Swami At Your Service

It’s 10 pm on a random night. I’ve brushed, flossed, exfoliated, lotioned, and melatonin-ed my way into my pajamas. I’ve given the cats their nightly treats over meows that make them sound rarely fed, though that’s far from the truth. I’ve kenneled some dogs and hugged the others. Crawling into bed with my microbead pillow tucked just so in the middle of my back, I check my phone. It’s time to start my sleep app. A woman named Annie Einan is about to tell me everything I always wanted to know about Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. I know the story begins with a floating village, but her voice is so soothing that I’ve never made it to the end. As I reach for the phone, I see it. There’s a new message, a little red 1 in the corner of my Messenger app. Inevitably, I know it’s one of two things. Someone’s child has some sort of cardiac symptom. I dread those messages. Even if I’m super upbeat with the limited info I’m able to give, they leave me more unsettled than when they began. My story only has the worst ending possible, after all. But this random night, someone is asking the other often presented question. A loved one has cancer. They want to ask me questions about a diagnosis, a prognosis, or some other topic I have neither the degree nor the knowledge to answer. Sometimes, however, I’m asked the one question I consider myself highly capable of answering. Someone is starting chemo. What can they provide this person with to help, in some small way, to make the days ahead more bearable? Random dear heart, rest assured, you’ve come to the right place.

Cancer is the great leveler. It doesn’t care about your race, your religion, your income, or your title. It doesn’t care whether or not you graduated from college. It doesn’t care if you have a drug dependency, if you’re a single mom, or if you’re already someone else’s caregiver. It doesn’t care if you’ve already been weighed down with other health ailments. It doesn’t care if you’re busy, sad, a preschooler, or a septuagenarian. Cancer doesn’t give a flying flip. It just wants you. Once it gets its claws in you, like Robert Johnson standing at the crossroads, it never intends to let go. And, when it’s you in the scope of cancer’s rifle, it’s scary. Unlike the movies where the cancer patient, even with all the symptoms and the overdone stage makeup, remains ever stoic in the face of cancer, it’s the type of scary that stops you in your tracks. You can’t breathe. You can’t sleep. You can’t look at your spouse or your parents or your children because they’re looking at you with this expression that reminds you, every second of the day, there’s a monster growing inside you. They are sad and you are terrified of their sadness and this, my friends, is what you should read when you look up Catch 22 in the dictionary. There is nothing left to do, or is there? Wanna help? Here’s what your loved one needs before the first drip of the chemo cocktail falls.


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Forney Messenger

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