This is a speech I gave recently at our church. Our associate pastor had asked people to contribute stories of good Samaritans in our lives since that was the reading for the week. I edited it down for a time limit for our Church, but this is the unedited version. I mean, why try for brevity when I don’t have to?
Writing this speech was hard. Really hard. Not because I lacked examples; I was overwhelmed with examples. I just wanted to do the speech justice because of all the ways my husband and I have been showered with love and support this year.
I also wanted to feel competent. There has not been a surfeit of that in my life lately. I felt so out of control that I almost didn’t write it. Procrastination through perfectionism – my specialty. But I made myself do it. I wanted to feel like I had given something back to all the people who have helped us. I’ve been dealing with some ongoing vertigo and balance issues, so Marcus went up to the podium with me.
As soon as I started, I just got this wonderful feeling running through my veins. I’m pretty damn good at giving speeches or talks, and that adrenaline rushed over me. As I walked back to my chair, it was actually hard not to give a big fist pump and shout a “Hell yeah!”. I sat down thinking “I totally kicked ass on that speech”. Then I realized that probably wasn’t what Jesus would have done and asked God to forgive me for being so awful. I do kind of feel like He was down with me feeling like I had kicked ass.
On Good Friday of this year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. 2013 had been pretty awful up to that point, but this seemed like a particularly cruel twist. Rationally, I know there is an end game in sight. I have a very good prognosis. Things could be much worse.
But it’s hard to be rational when you’re in the middle of the storm. Marcus and I are both relieved that my cancer was caught in a very early stage, but the way we found out about it was personally heartbreaking to us both. I’ve had one complication after another. If I had to pick one adjective right now to describe myself, it would be defeated. I know I’m not, but I sure feel that way.
I’m still too new and rubbed raw into this journey to even attempt to make sense of why this has happened to me, why cancer happens to anyone & how to sift the wheat from the chaff from this whole experience.
The one thing I have learned from having cancer is the incredible power of unexpected kindnesses, big and small, from strangers, acquaintances and loved ones.
It’s a friend who sends you a stuffed manatee to make you laugh – a manatee that has been named Hugh and who comes to every doctor’s appointment with me. He’s had his picture taken with every member of my medical team at UT. After my lumpectomy, I woke up to him lying next to me dressed in a surgical outfit.
It’s a voice teacher who helps put your confidence back together after two awful choir teachers stole the joy of singing from you.
It’s a woman I don’t know very well from the internet who commiserates with me about well-meaning people who say stupid things about cancer and/or your health and who makes and sends you a t-shirt that has a manatee on it and says “Leave me Alone – I Have Cancer”.
It’s a Facebook or twitter message from a friend checking in on you. A friend posting a picture on your timeline of the most ridiculous use of baking twine yet. A kind reply on a status that you’ve posted from someone that you really admire.
It’s the cards from people telling me they’re praying for me. It’s multiple encouraging cards from a woman here who just held me one day when I cried, telling me it was going to be ok.
It’s the nurse and the nurse practioner who have answered every call, helped me through every setback, hugged me each time they see me. It’s a nurse that hugs you and gently wipes the band-aid smegma off your wrist and arm. It’s a doctor that’s done surgery on you who ends a personal phone call because he sees you in a walkway and wants to know how you’re doing. It’s a nurse practitioner who waits around after his workday is done, so he can get a prescription for you to your husband.
It’s the local Young Survivors group leader whose closed door you can knock on just so she can comfort you, love you and get you the help you need. It’s the UT Cancer Center social worker who has a safe place to melt down when you’ve needed it.
It’s the neighbors who have helped your husband scrape the rest of the paint off of your house and the big bunch of them who showed up one Saturday to paint most of your house with primer.
It’s a text message from someone who wants you to know they love you. It’s a call from a friend telling you that you can get through this. It’s a post card of a pigeon shit covered statue from a friend who tells you that no matter how shitty life may feel, at least you’re not a statue covered in pigeon shit.
It’s the neighbors and friends who make stealth deliveries of food, bourbon, duck eggs & crayon pictures.
It’s the 4 women at my yoga studio who insisted you take their classes for free and who are eagerly awaiting the time when they can help you get stronger again.
It’s friends and church members who know you’re struggling financially right now, and have offered to help you by letting your husband know about job opportunities and hiring him to do odd jobs so you both can make ends meet. It’s a pastor and friend who visits you in the hospital.
It’s the man you meet in the cancer center parking lot who volunteers at the Norris Animal Shelter and offers to take the scrawny kitten, who has just run up to you and climbed into your arms purring, to the shelter and make sure she gets a good home.
It’s a group of church members who buy you a birthday pastry cake and sing happy birthday to you , especially because they wanted to bring some joy to an unjoyful 40th birthday.
It’s a husband who holds your hair back when you vomit. It’s a husband who sits there and strokes your hair while you dry-heave for 20 minutes. It’s a husband who has taken the wedding vow of ‘in sickness and in health’ and who has proven that he meant that in every way possible, no matter how disgusting or hard or how strong he’s had to be for you. It’s a husband who tells you every day how beautiful you are.
When Marcus and I went looking for a church, we had two very simple requirements. One – that they loved and accepted people no matter what gender, race or sexual orientation they might be. The second was that we wanted a church that focused on Jesus’ teachings about love and kindness. We wanted a church that walked the talk. Marcus and I felt very honored to become members here. Because we’ve also found a church full of Good Samaritans.