Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hanging Chads and Blowout Preventers

FORT WAYNE, INDIANA - Ok, what? That’s the reaction we seem to have when we first hear about something in the news that we’ve only just heard for the first time. Remember the debacle of the hanging chad? In the matter of days, we all knew exactly what they were, and how our nation was of the recount of said chads. Crazy. Now, we are all getting up to speed on blowout preventers. Truth be told, I worked in the oil industry what seems a lifetime ago. I knew a few engineers who actually designed bops, and so when I heard it on the news I thought 'uh-oh.' If you are hearing it on main stream media, something wicked has occurred. Like Kuwait in the 90’s. In case you want to know, I own a red jumpsuit exactly like the one John Wayne wears in "Hellfighters," but mine has a cute little patch that says ‘heidi’ instead of ‘chance’. Maybe someday I’ll post a pic of that. Thus endeth my cool connection to the world of oil and obscure code words contained therein.

So this brings me to the little inside phrase that was used, properly, here at work the other day. My friends at the Foundation were going over some accounting codes and one was NED. It was for a group of Lutheran women that had me speak at their convention recently, but one of the ladies said, “Hey Heidi, does that mean no evidence of disease?” I said, yes, that was indeed what that stood for in my world. Yay! Learning of the secret language of the cancer patient!

It gave me pause, however. Kind of like when I hear my 7-year-old explain to her friends that some mommies die from cancer, but some get to live. She’s not sure why, but she is familiar with the concept and it makes her uneasy. So I have now taken sweet, wonderful people who don’t know the inside story. Who don’t go to cancer centers, don’t know what infusion rooms look like and couldn’t identify a radiation machine. Ductal lavage sounds like a French dessert to them, not a procedure. I’ve taken them into this dark bit of the world, and don’t know how I feel about it. Mostly guilty – these are sweeties that have healthy lives and I don’t want them to hear these things unless they have to. Don’t want them to have to hear or smell or see or think about this stuff unless or until it is absolutely required.

Then I think about Cheri. She used to be my boss here at Vera Bradley. She’s healthy (just ran a marathon, for crying out loud!), her family is healthy (thank God!) and I remember what she did for me. I say this every time I have a speaking engagement; she is in the world of fashion and sales, not medicine. But when I went for my first chemo treatment, she and another friend drove down and sat with me. Right there in the chemo room with a bunch of bald patients, crying families and wonderful nurses. She didn’t say, "Oh gosh, I don’t think I can handle this smell, or look at this group." She just hugged me and held my hand, and made me feel safe and not alone. I will never forget that kindness, it’s one of the reasons I think the world of her to this day.

So the take-away for me on this one is to allow your friends and family to learn with you on this journey, if you are going through cancer. They might be grossed out, but they will tell you when it’s too much info. If they want to learn about things, don’t worry about shielding them; just allow them to walk with you. The more people know, the more they care. The more they will do. The sooner we can get this taken care of, our daughters won't have to explain cancer to their little friends.

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