December is usually the best month for trips to the mailbox. Passing over my own failure to pull it together and get cards in the mail this year, I enjoy envelopes full of pictures of smiling families and holiday wishes. However, as I carry high-deductible catastrophic insurance, and have spent much of the past four months either in the hospital or receiving expensive outpatient services (many of which are not covered by the policy), well, let's just say a lot of my mail isn't all that joyful right now. The good people at Mercy Hospital saved my life, and I don't bear any resentment at being asked to pay them for it, but it isn't the fun part of the whole experience. In fact, despite all the virtues of having been through treatment for AML, the word "fun" doesn't really apply. Despite the near-comical nature of the numbers tallying up in the liability column, I have never been more aware of how wealthy I am.
When I was first hospitalized, my sister drove up to stay with the boys and cook me food. My friend Amy, a woman who has only seen me once with hair, filled up her car with food from her farm and dropped it off at the house. My sister said she must be the nicest person in the world (and she may be right - check out Amy and Jeff over at Buckwheat Blossom). Another Amy, also a farmer (check out Wolf Pine Farm, too), brought her girls up for a playdate and made lunch plus piles of leftovers. Jan and Rob of Goranson Farm load me up with produce whenever I see them, and have made a donation of much of my summer's balance (and they won't let me pay them the rest until after I get the final good news from the doctors). My parents, relatives, dear friends old and new, friends-of-friends, friends-of-parents, and on and on, have given so much in time and nourishment that our family could be supported and fed this fall. I have already written about the many amazing women who have donated breastmilk for my youngest. It will be a feat to return any of the favors or pay even a small fraction of them forward.
Cancer treatment isn't something a person can go alone. People often remark to me their amazement at my physical and emotional strength during this process; how could it be otherwise with the support that I have had? The Christmas presents are all opened; despite my protestations that I have received more than my share already, there were many for me under the tree. Why? Because people want to give, if they don't feel bullied. It is human nature to reach out, in times of challenge and in times of joy; we have to be conditioned not to be charitable. One of the greatest gifts I have received is learning to receive; to allow friends and neighbors to share their gifts and to participate in the healing process. Asking for help, and accepting it, is a way of acknowledging the human web that is our community, across the street and across the ether of the internet. As a neighbor's note on my refrigerator says: "call me. I want to help." Inviting that help is a chance to share the rewards of this journey.
My mind is occupied these days with more ways that I can do that; more on that to come in future posts.