April 26, 2016
It takes a village to get through cancer
BY Marcy Kurtz
For weeks before my fourth tumor removal surgery (my third in as many years), I carefully prepared for this major event. I made sure my work at my law office was adequately covered, that my seven weekly yoga classes were going to be taught by just the right teachers, that people were lined up to help with the upcoming charity event I am co-chairing in May to raise funds for uterine cancer research and that I’d have all of the help I would need in the hospital and beyond. It was a gigantic undertaking. I knew I would be away from work and teaching my yoga classes for many weeks, and in serious need of personal help on the day of my surgery and for several weeks thereafter.
As I got my last-minute affairs in order the night before my surgery, I was completely overwhelmed not by the detail and planning I had apparently successfully undertaken, but by the number of people who had stepped up without hesitation to make my life easier. I had dozens of people helping me through this latest leg in my journey with recurrent uterine cancer.
Support from my friends and colleagues
I had competent and skilled colleagues at work who agreed to cover my cases -- even one scheduled for trial during my recovery time -- and the rest of my workload. I had enthusiastic, fun yoga teachers step up to teach my classes, some teaching for several weeks in a row so my beloved students would have consistency in my absence. My friends lined up to volunteer to stay with me in the hospital at night and to do a myriad of other things, such as shopping, cleaning my house, taking care of my cats, chauffeuring my mother to and from the hospital each day so she could care for me, visiting me to make sure my spirits were uplifted, and running errands.
The sheer number of people who volunteered to help was pretty amazing!
A family affair
And then there was my family. We are a small family -- just my mother and stepfather, my sister and my 18-year-old nephew, and my mentally challenged younger brother.
My entire definition of normal changed when I learned I had uterine cancer in 2010, and it completely changed the lives of everyone in my close-knit family, too. I learned quickly that cancer is a family disease. Just as she has for every surgery before this one, my sister took charge of handling my care in the hospital and beyond. She also attended every one of the seven pre-op doctor visits with me before my surgery and was set to drive my mother and me to the hospital for a 5 a.m. check-in time the day of my surgery.
My sister has used every single one of her vacation days since 2010 to take care of me in some way. My mother is just tiny footsteps behind her. Healthy and fit, but older, my mother has been by my side for each surgery and every major cancer-related event since 2010, despite living in a different city. She is my primary caretaker during each hospital visit and the first trying weeks of recovery afterward. This time was no different. She would be by my side from the minute I woke up from surgery until she was sure I was able to manage on my own post-surgery. My stepfather has always kept their home and affairs in order so my mother could devote weeks of her time to my care. I knew my teenage nephew would spend his free time visiting me in the hospital, cheering me up and bringing me special food. Even my brother somehow instinctively would know to call me, as always, and send his well-wishes.
I am keenly aware that I am blessed with a very special family.
Cancer doesn’t just affect the patient
Maybe this is a public post-surgery thank you to all of my colleagues, co-workers, friends and family for making my journey easier. And maybe this is a public acknowledgement that cancer affects everyone surrounding the person actually diagnosed.
Or, maybe this is just a public recognition that I am acutely aware that my very survival today is as dependent on those who have surrounded me with love and assistance and who have had my back, as it is on my skilled team of doctors at MD Anderson.
I am enormously grateful for both.
The sheer number of people who volunteered to help was pretty amazing.