A couple Tuesdays ago, I had the privilege of taking my friend Amy to her weekly chemo treatment. Although we’d both rather being doing almost anything else, the big, grey leather chair at Texas Oncology is her assigned spot on Tuesdays.
Since this was my first time joining my friend on her dreaded chemo day, I prayed that I wouldn’t let discomfort, fear or sadness keep me from missing God’s presence in that place. I wanted to be a bright spot in that treatment room and help lighten the load for my friend.
Here are three take-aways from chemo day with my friend:
#1: The power of “me too”
When we walked into the treatment room, Amy headed straight for the chair in the corner of the room right by the window. She said she liked to tuck away in the corner so she wouldn’t have to talk to everyone. I followed quietly behind and pulled a chair up next to hers.
Much to my surprise, before I even took my seat, Amy was talking to the older couple sitting right next to us. I smiled a little at my chatty friend who “sits in the corner to avoid people”. She couldn’t help herself.
Amy laughs at me for talking to strangers wherever I go, something her introverted self would never do. But here she was, not even hooked up to her bag of meds, and already sharing her story (and her hope) with her new chemo neighbor.
In that room, Amy could connect with the other patients personally. Although the paths that got them to those grey, leather recliners were all different, many of their battles, burdens, fears and pain were very much the same. While I could only sit and listen, Amy could offer “me too”.
“Me too” reminds us that we are not alone. It reminds us that others understand our pain, our burdens, our temptations and our fears. A shared story, when offered humbly and vulnerably, is a powerful lifeline of encouragement and hope to our neighbor in need.
#2: The importance of “I’m with you”
An hour or so into her treatment, Amy looked over at me with her tired eyes and said, “Thank you for being here. It’s so much easier to go through this knowing people are with me.”
It seemed like a silly thing to thank me for, really. As her friend, I often wished I could do much more. But in the moment, as I looked at my friend in that chair in that room, I understood the importance of “with”.
There is not one single thing I can do to change the rotten circumstance of my friend. I can’t make her feel better – I can’t give her energy – I can’t take away her cancer. But I can walk with her. I can stand by her side. Or sit by her chair. I might not be able to tell my friend “me too”, but my “I’m with you” is important too. I’m confident now that an “I’m with you” makes us feel stronger and braver than we really are. Often it’s all the support we need to keep us from going under.
#3: Laughter is good medicine.
My biggest surprise on chemo day was the laughter. Between the kind-faced man sitting next to us (receiving only his second treatment of many for colon cancer) and Amy (who only had five more treatments to go), we had several good, hard laughs. The kind that makes your face hurt a little. It was good medicine for our souls.
This life is hard, friends. The fight is real, but it doesn’t have to steal our joy.
A joy-filled heart is curative balm, but a broken spirit hurts all the way to the bone. Proverbs 17:22 VOICE
Before we part ways, I’d like to leave you with a few questions to consider. They’re the questions I’m asking myself in light of Amy’s chemo day.
- What “me too” stories do you have to share? Are you willing to expose some of your struggle and pain for the benefit of another?
- Who in your life right now needs your with-ness? Are you willing to enter into their “hard place” – not to fix or clean up but simply to be with them?
- Does your life need a little more joy? How can you add more laughter to your day?
Next week, I’m going to let Amy share her story with you. Besides the fact that I think she’s pretty great, I think her words will encourage you too.
Until then, keep pressing in.