The Kindness of Others

‘The Kiss of Life’
My friend Dee coming in for some chemo ‘fun time’.
I’ve just opened a parcel from my beautiful sister-in-law, the Brave Man’s sister, who is, in her own right a Brave Sister and Mother. Out of the parcel I pull a beautiful and soft ‘home knitted’ wrap. Every loop knitted with love from someone who cares so much. She said, “I just feel helpless, I don’t know what to do”. I must say, I was a little misty eyed, that someone could go to this much effort just for me. I feel safe and cosy when I wrap it around my shoulders, there’s something magical and lovely about it that makes me feel better. 

My bed, my office

So sitting on my bed, with my new wrap hugging my shoulders, I began to think about what, ‘my story’ was all about. You know, the journey, the challenge, the story….. I don’t think it’s about a person who is trying to come to terms with living with cancer and the fears of….. “will I ever have to say good-bye?” But more about the discovery of a whole new amazing world of human kindness and compassion.
So I’m on the ‘medical travelator’, been taken from constant appointments with oncologists, specialists, surgeons and having so many tests and scans. I end up having scans of the tests and tests of the scans. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if I was scanned going through the checkout at Coles, just for the sake of it.
And in between all this, having chemotherapy that enters your body like a swat team of elite storm troopers, marching through and obliterating everything in sight that looks like it shouldn’t be there. (Shame they didn’t get the memo not to touch my hair!) 
Painting Sienna’s toe nails whilst Rachel Devine captures the moment
My hair falls out and I retreat to my cave of ill health, I remind myself it has to be done and I think of my angel Sienna and my ‘Brave Man’, my husband Gary. The sickness and nausea which is like having jetlag, morning sickness a night on the town and been given 4 hours of nonstop wizzy-dizzies lasts for about 10 days, where bed is my comfy friend and writing is my therapy
With all this, it doesn’t leave much time or energy for anything else.
That’s where the kindness of others, comes in. The Community has protected and nurtured us in our time of need, like a mother’s arms. I’ve been so humbled by what people have done for us, just to make life easier and to let us know that we’re not doing this on our own. They don’t do it for praise, they do it because they genuinely want to help.
Support like this, is the greatest healer!
From a simple text message, that reminds you, your friends think about you and they care. To a weekly fresh baked batch of choc chip biscuits left at the front door from a mum at school.
As soon as we found out I was sick again this year, my friend Rachel, who is a professional photographer, cancelled all her shoots for the day and came around to capture some beautiful moments with Gary, Sienna and me. She wanted to do this before my hair fell out. Some beautiful shots that you’ll see more of throughout my journal.
I’ve had all the mainstream religions covered, with the local fruiterer praying to Allah for me, the retired nuns around the corner keeping me in their prayers and my girlfriend who has converted to Buddhism imparting her wisdom of the Four Nobel Truths. There has even been a monastery in Tasmania that sent me a special blessing for good health. Not bad for an agnostic.

Nat, one of my troops, lit this candle for me at St Pats Cathedral New York
Candles have been lit in churches from Croatia to New York by friends traveling the world. I think I have every beautiful healing crystal known to man and a sweet smelling kit of different oils for different ailments given to me by one of my troops.
My friends who own a local restaurant in Brighton, not only have dinners cooked for us and delivered every night, but carefully and lovingly plan the meals so that they suit my ‘chemo’ taste buds. There’s even separate meals made for the Brave Man and Sienna.
As the ‘chemo cloud’ lifts, I look forward to the fresh air and sunshine on my face and go down to get my favourite coffee from the Pantry. When I arrive, I’m  treated like royalty, all the staff are so genuinely happy to see me out and about, that they all come and greet me with hugs and kisses , I reckon if they had access to a marching band,  I’d be greeted with the full five star reception!
And every week, when I just couldn’t make it out of the house, the local Fruit and Vegie grocer would go out of his way to drop fresh fruit and vegie at my front door.
The local ironing lady and her husband took it upon themselves to do our ironing for a year so we “didn’t have to worry about that chore.” She said to my Brave Man, “You have money, I have money, it doesn’t matter, we help each other!” This is our nurturing community at work.
With aching muscles that have been pummelled by chemo, I get a knock at the door and greeted by a big beautiful smile by masseur Dee, who gives up her Sunday afternoons to comfort my poor weary body with her soothing hands and talks to me about her Think Out Loud Coaching which always leaves me inspired and positive.
Local workmen ‘downed their tools’ to come and help
I am even receiving kindness from strangers, I had to move furniture to prepare for Sienna’s Glistening (more bout that later) and because I’ve got as much strength as a dead ferret, we asked the builders on the corner of my street for help. Five minutes later two guys walked in that looked like Popeye and Conan the Barbarian, with their arms the size of cannons picked up the table like a feather, did their bit and off they went,  with flowers arriving and gifts on the door step, it was a great day that day!
Another thoughtful gift from Catherine

Lisa another one of the ‘troops’, dropped off flowers
with a homemade handpainted card
Even the school community where Sienna attends grade one have been so supportive, with an endless supply of offers to pick her up and drop her off from both the mums and teachers. I think if I took them all up, I could sleep in until she reaches VCE.  Every week two mums in particular just organised without question, that they would take Sienna to ballet and drop her back home to me…. so kind.
Sienna skipping off with her friends after school 
And I’m always receiving messages of hope and love from mums, dads and teaches at her school, all willing to do something to make Sienna’s day that little bit happier. Just a cuddle from her teachers goes along way and she is as happy as a lark!
And often when the Brave Man and I are turning into our driveway after coming back from some sort of medical appointment or a long day of chemo, there on the door step a little gift will be left with a card of best wishes and warm words of support. These could come from my close friends or a mum at school I’ve only said hello to in passing.  It’s these acts of kindness that get me through it, help me stay positive.
The Brave Man in “Sickness and in Health”
The Brave Man never misses an appointment with me, he’s always there to hold my hand. This is thanks to the generosity and compassion his employer has given us, by never questioning the time he spends with me, and all they hope for, is for me to get better. 
And at the end of my treatment in 6 months, where I’m left with a tired and weary body which has fought so hard, my friend and amazing nutritionist and personal trainer Donna Aston, will be waiting to get me back on track and give me back a healthy and fit body.
Le Saffranier in Bonnieux Provence, a place we hold close to our hearts
Our community of care doesn’t just limit itself to Australia. A beautiful Swedish lady Anna, who I have only ever corresponded via email and text has invited us back next year or 2013, to her amazing 18th Century Farmhouse which is her holiday house in the South of France.  Bonnieux is the village, and it has never let us down. We are always filled with happy memories and cherished moments when we are there. It’s these memories that both the Brave Man and I focus on to get us through.
May 2011
Having fun at the Bonnieux Market
I love the Dalai Lama’s wise words, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” The kindness of others has played a major role in my little family triumphing over this, and still does, as our journey continues. I am glad I have been given the chane to think about what ‘my story’ is. 
So I think mine for now, it is the enlightening experience I have had with the beauty of human kindness.
As I post this, I’ve just received a CD of meditation from a gorgeous guy and friend who works locally and an exquisite head scarf sent all the way from Greece, from our friends travelling the world.
No words can describe my heartfelt thanks.

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