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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

RE-FRIGGIN'-MISH-SHEE-AWN, BABY!

Some good news today! My nephew Owen got to go home from the hospital for a couple of weeks because his tough little body responded so well to treatments. He had a good time at home, sounds like, and ate my sister out of house and home -- this is apparently an expected and normal side effect of taking Prednisone, a drug that is one of the lynchpins of his treatment.

Owen and Jackie are back in the hospital again this week, this time for testing and the administration of several chemo drugs. Testing was yesterday, with aspiration of cells from his spine. The fantastically wonderful news, my friends, my sweet, sweet friends who have been praying for Owen, is that he is officially IN REMISSION.

I'll.

Just.

Let.

That.

Sink.

In.

Yes, that is what I said: RE-FRIGGIN'-MISH-SHEEE-AWN, BABY!!!!

(BIG FAT GRIN.)

Treatment will continue for two more years, plus a little, as protocol requires to keep him in remission. The treatment for this type of leukemia follows a set of three phases: induction, consolidation, and a third phase whose title currently escapes me. Owen'll be working through phase two, or consolidation, for the next six months, and apparently this phase will take him through several cycles of healthy/sick/healthy/sick and can be very difficult for the patient and the people around him.

Regardless of how cancer-free ('NOTHER BIG FAT GRIN) Owen is, he's still getting chemo, and as most of us know, the butt-whoopin' chemo delivers to cancer gets carried over into the rest of the body. Which makes my BIG FAT GRIN want to fade a little, but I keep reminding myself that this is necessary and is the part of the whole treatment shebang that prevents Owen from getting cancer again. Butt-whoopin', do your stuff.

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I spent a lot of time this weekend with or near my friend Angela. On Sunday she had a celebration of his Tom's life and then yesterday was the funeral. She is sad. She's holding up remarkably well, but y'all... this is HARD, and is going to be hard for a very, very long time. We've talked about that, she and I. I've been doing a bit of research on how to support Angela over the next months/years (and I have your input, as well, so thank you so much for that, all of you!) and I have some ideas - some kind of neat, different ideas, I think, that I've come up with, based on themes that kept coming up in my research.

One such theme was this propensity of friends and family to flood a surviving spouse with attention and support right after she's lost her mate and then to get lost again in their own lives, leaving her feeling alone and forgotten, and feeling as if her spouse has been forgotten. I really do not want Angela to feel that way for a moment, so I'm thinking of making some hand-beaded bracelets for those close to her - neighbors, friends, family - to wear every day over at LEAST the next year, to remind us of Tom and Angela and their precious daughter, and spur us on to keep loving them and doing for them beyond these first few weeks. Do y'all think people would like that idea and want to wear them?

The second theme is this one of people wanting to do and say the right things for a grieving spouse, but, never having experienced a major loss like this one, not knowing exactly what to do and say, or doing and saying the WRONG things. Obviously Angela will need us, will need our friendship and our presence in her life, and obviously, we want to be giving her exactly what she needs. If I'm doing something wrong, I definitely want to know about it, wouldn't you? But Angela's probably not going to feel comfortable saying to us, "You're making this harder on me." or "I need you to do THIS." or "What could you possibly be THINKING?"

Now Angela has a wonderful sense of humor. She loves to laugh and is always cracking jokes with her dry, wry wit. If I've said once to her, I've said a thousand times, Angela, you are a NUT! (And this never seems to come as any surprise to her, which is nice.) She also enjoys her wine, just like I do (well, I do!). So I was thinking, with all that said, maybe she WOULD be comfortable, and maybe would even ENJOY, having a stack of brightly colored business-sized cards to keep with her that just say, Bless your sweet heart for wanting to help me. What you are doing right now ain't helpin'. If you really want to help, shut up and bring me another glass of wine!, that she could hand to people when they're saying or doing something that isn't hitting the mark with her. It'd all be in good fun, of course, but would also be her get-out-of-jail free card, in a sense, and may perhaps light-heartedly open a dialogue with people as to how they could better support her. You think?

(Heck, I'd like a deck of those myself, and I haven't lost my spouse.)

Be honest, y'all. What are your thoughts on these ideas?




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13 comments:

  1. Your friendship will be the most important thing. Not sure about the cards ;-). After watching my mom go through this recently with my dad's unexpected passing, I know just being there helps. Make sure you know when his birthday is/was and do something special with her on that day. Keep talking about him, listen to her talk about him. Find out what things he did around the house and arrange to have others do those things, or get together a list of phone numbers to call for that kind of help. Take her out to dinner if that's something she used to do with him. It's hard to go alone. If appropriate, offer to watch her kid (don't know how old she is). Those are a few things that came to mind...

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  2. Fantabulous news about your nephew!!! That's just brilliant.... and so quick! Amazing! He's one strong boy :D

    I think the card idea for your neighbour is really sweet.... I've often wished someone could just tell me what exactly they need me to say and do. Everyone seems to respond to greif so differently :S I'm thinking of her and her family.

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  3. I'm grinning big over here too - what great news!
    I love your thoughts on how to help Angela. You being you and working on this things will mean so much to her!

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  4. So, so, SO happy to hear about your nephew! What wonderful news.

    You know, those cards don't sound like such a bad idea at all. Even for those of us who haven't lost spouses. You are a good friend.

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  5. As a young widow of one year, I can tell you that the hardest times are around months 7-9. It isn't that people forget you are a widow - it is that, for them, life returns to normal. What helped me was that a friend would take me once a week, and still calls me up occasionally, for a Sonic happy hour run. At the beginning of spring (my husband passed in February), the young adults class at church came and worked in my yard for an entire day. At least once a week, my friends would drag me out of the house for a lunch.

    For me, though, what helps is that friends would still talk to me about memories they have of Mark. If something reminded them of him, they would drop me a note. At different marks (1 month, 6 months, 9 months), they'd remember the anniversary of his death and send me a note. They never offered me advice on how to live life without him unless I ask for it - they lesson without trying to offer advice. Many times I just wanted to talk.

    My fear has always been that he would be forgotten - their talking about him from time to time lets me know that he hasn't been forgotten.

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  6. Praise God for Owen! YAY!!!! :)

    I love the idea of the bracelets. What a great way for everyone to remember...not that they would forget, but having a constant reminder will help them to remember daily, and then in return think to do something for Angela, give her a phone call, etc. You are such a sweet friend!

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  7. Praise the Lord for Owen's awesome news!

    LOVE the bracelet idea. The cards, well, depends on the personality of the holder as to whether that might work for her. Don't think it would work for me, but I am reticent. Love that you are caring for her during this time.

    Nate's Mom

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  8. Our friend Scott lost his wife to cancer at age 37, and he said the anniversary of her death, of their wedding day, and Mother's Day were very difficult for him and their two daughters. He was always glad when people sent a note around those days.

    I'm a little late, but for advice, I'd say err on the side of still talking about your friend's husband -- tell her if something makes you think of him. Don't worry that you're going to make her think about him or make her sad. Odds are that she's already thinking about him anyway! And offer a specific thing to help instead of saying "if you need anything, call." A grieving person can barely get out of bed in the morning, much less make up a to-do list for us and call us up. (Sounds like you're off to a great start with offering specifics!) Also, offer "fun" things to do, like going out for coffee or a pedicure, that she may feel guilty about initiating for herself.

    I love the bracelet idea. It would depend on her personality whether she'd feel comfortable with the cards, though. If she could think of a standard request for women or men to help with (such as adding them to a list for lawn mowing, snow removal, cleaning), that may be a way to redirect unhelpful people.

    You're being a great, dear friend to her! And many congratulations to Owen and his family!!!!
    Nancy

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  9. Hooray for remission!!!!! Excellent news!

    And I have to say I love the idea of the bracelets. Such a great tangible reminder. Love it.

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  10. Hooray for good news!

    I think your ideas are really great. Maybe you could also go ahead and plan out a calendar of dates over the next year that people will make it a point to minister to your friend for a week at a time, once a month or something. She will know she is loved, whatever you do.

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  11. the remission news is AMAZING! big grins! :) :) :)

    I'm so sorry for your friend's loss. :( it sounds like you are a wonderful friend, and that will be such a comfort to her.

    As for the cards. I think it would be a really nice way to start the conversation with her about how to best support her. I think that the cards will make her laugh, and whether she uses them or not, she knows your heart is in the right place.

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  12. I LOVE the bracelet idea...not only a reminder for them, but a visual sign to her that they care!! Support from those around her is exactly what she needs. You are so wonderful to come up with such unique and truly helpful ideas.

    So glad to hear about Owen...I will continue to pray for the difficulties that are ahead with the treatments.

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  13. Yay for remission, awesome news!! I echo all the other comments, you are a great friend to think about what you can do to rally others to think, pray, and support your friend going through this incredible loss and grief. I appreciated J.'s comment above. Really appreciated it.

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Thoughts?