Becky’s blog: Giving thanks to sideline heroesFebruary 14, 2014
By Becky MacLean
Me vs. Cancer was the most epic battle I’ve ever faced. I was told the odds were in my favour; it was a lucky card, and surely I’d come out on top. That was over 10 years ago, and I’m still here. I battled cancer, but I didn’t do it alone. I had a lot of support during that time: family, friends, teachers, and community members. These are my Sideline Heroes.
My parents were with me every step of the way. Mom and Dad broke the news to me that Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a kind of cancer. They went with me to every appointment leading to diagnosis and continuing onto post-treatment follow-ups. They kept me fed, clean, and healthy during a time that I wouldn’t have been able to take care of myself.
My brother also lived at home. He brought my homework when I wasn’t at school, got me glasses of apple juice (he did this until a few months after treatment) and he didn’t complain about the fact that sometimes I smelled like a chemical waste site. He and my sister had an affectionate nickname for me—”Gosling”—which I earned when my hair started to grow back during radiation. It was short and soft like the down feathers of a baby goose.
My sister didn’t live at home by then, but she let me stay at her house on weekends or during the week if I was taking time off school. We would go on little adventures, which gave me an opportunity to explore the city a bit before moving in the following fall. She would make me delicious meals and we would curl up on her couch, watch movies, snack, laugh, and giggle. My brother-in-law would often join us. He helped my family by being someone that they could talk to. He was able to help provide support for my other Sideline Heroes, and was there for me when I wanted to talk, too.
My close group of friends was incredibly supportive. They didn’t pry, but they weren’t shy about asking questions if they had them. Mostly they would ask about my treatment or how I was doing on a particular day. They didn’t ask about my fears, or try to get deep with me. They showed they cared, and kept our friendship consistent. I didn’t see them much outside of school, but I was grateful for the time we spent together. They didn’t get upset if I made morbid or inappropriate jokes about cancer, and they weren’t shy about making them either. It was nice not to be treated differently by them. It helped maintain a sense of normalcy.
My best friend at the time was in incredible source of sunshine. On my first day of chemo, I came home and found a Bristol board card in our door. She had gone to school and collected photos, quotes, and drawings from friends and well-wishers. It was a large card–three pieces taped together. I had a big show of support from the very beginning.
I wasn’t allowed to go trick or treating on Halloween so a couple friends donated some of their candy to me. I was so excited that I ate it all that afternoon, had a huge sugar high, and then a wicked sugar crash. Not my finest moment, but definitely not my worst.
My teachers encouraged me not to bite off more than I could chew academically. It was suggested that I dropped two of my advanced placement course in favour of something a little less challenging. Though I didn’t feel very supported at the time, it became evident during treatment that my teachers had been right. I wouldn’t have been able to handle the course load; I’m glad they had the foresight and decided to confront me on my course load.
I also had a teacher that was a knitter. She rallied students and faculty to learn how to cast a few stitches and together people in my school made me a hat. It was a great fit and had various shades of darker blue stripes.
Living in a small community meant that it wasn’t long before most people knew I was ill. I didn’t like the feeling of having little privacy but it wasn’t all bad. We had lots of people wishing well, and saying prayers for us. Our community cared. We had offers of help if we needed anything, and one person even sourced an old laptop through their work so that it would be easier for me to keep up with some of my schoolwork.
I didn’t have to look far to find help. There were many people and many shows of support that helped carry me along the way. It doesn’t take a big gesture to be a hero during somebody’s time of need. It was the little things that really made that time easier, and those people are special to me.
My heroes will forever hold a place in my heart.