The Unexpected Gift

Depending on the day, our life goes by many a different name. There’s ‘The Journey’, The Adventure’, ‘The Whirlwind’, ‘The Crazy Train, ‘Shit Luck Train Wreck’, ‘Disaster’ and the list goes on as I’m sure you get my point.

Regardless of what Paul and I happen to be feeling, thinking about and dealing with, I’ve consistently felt, even in the depths of despair, that the entire experience of welcoming our piece of shit Brain Tumor into our lives and negotiating a harmonious life together has been a gift.  Freakishly odd, I know. But it’s true.

Aside from how we’ve changed our perspectives, wants, needs and future plans, and the lessons we’ve taken from the journey thus far; there have been gifts that have come along that we never could have foreseen to be a part of this.

Back, to what seems like another lifetime, in the first weeks on this journey, I had a very unexpected person reach out to me. This is about how an unexpected gift of compassion has evolved into a friendship and how it was as surprising as it was calming and comforting.  

Heidi had been a customer of my business (Swanky Baby, LLC) in Charlotte, NC. To my best recollection, if we met, it was once but I couldn’t pick her out of a crowd. As a courtesy, I would deliver orders to her home while she was at work and aside from communicating via email we never formally met. I knew her from her email address and what she traditionally ordered. Business as usual.

In the weeks following my diagnosis in 2007, after calling family and close friends, Paul and I sent out email blasts to most everyone in our address books sharing the news. Opening the flood gates of information sharing was initially cathartic, but it also proved challenging as we began to see the impending reality of who stood where and who really cared.

Reality is harsh especially when you never see it for what it is.

I had a message from Heidi within hours of my email. I was shocked. I was flattered. I was perplexed. I was scared. I was comforted.

Heidi called simply to tell me she was here to support me. Support us. That in the time since we had moved from Charlotte, NC she had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of Breast Cancer and had recently completed her treatment. She called not to say that she knew what I was going through, but to offer support. A call to offer encouragement. An offer, if I wanted to help find resources and to let me know what worked for her. A call to let me know I was not alone.

It was overwhelming.

I felt tremendous joy for her stability and good health while simultaneously feeling tremendous sadness that she was facing a battle herself. Beyond it all, I felt comfort and I felt a sense of calm. I immediately trusted her and I immediately trusted her compassion and welcomed her into our journey.

It didn’t matter that we had totally different diagnoses or that we barely knew each other. Heidi was my first band-aide. While the bandage didn’t completely cover the wound, the wound has benefited from a tremendous amount of healing that was provided.

It’s been three years and we continue to communicate, encourage one another and share our perspectives, feelings and frustrations and joy in our stability.  We may never meet, but to be honest, that really is inconsequential.

I think of Heidi and the gift she gave me almost everyday. Something greater than friendship and greater than kindness, she showed me that offering compassion to those in as much need of it as you is healing. That what makes the journey so memorable isn’t simply what you take from it, but what you allow yourself to open up and bring along with you.

Writing and sharing openly our story and our adventure, journey, or whatever the hell we call it today, has become easier the more I think of how a virtual stranger can alter your journey for the better. I can only hope that if by honestly portraying our journey, I can do for someone else what Heidi did for me. A damn special gift that keeps on giving.

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