It does take a village. . . .
The doctor’s call came just over a year ago. I was lying on my daughter’s bed, reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” when my husband brought me the phone. With my 5-year-old tugging at me to continue with the book, I tried to digest the doctor’s words: tumor, brain, surgery likely.
FOR THE RECORD
The headline on an earlier version of this article began with the phrase “After Cancer Diagnosis.” That reference to cancer was incorrect; the author had no such diagnosis.
We decided not to tell anyone -- at least not until we knew more about my prognosis. We were strong people, after all; private, allowing few into our inner circle. We’d find the best treatment and tell everyone once our choices were made.
In the coming days, we tried to proceed with life as usual -- a life that was now filled with daily doctor visits. The news was sometimes promising. Then, just as quickly, our spirits would be dragged down.
Though we didn’t admit it to each other, it wasn’t long before we realized that we couldn’t make it through this alone.
My husband broke first, mentioning the news to another dad at our son’s soccer game. That soccer dad contacted the church -- a church we’ve attended sporadically over the years -- and the wheels of support started spinning. An associate pastor called: “What time can I come see you tomorrow?” she asked. And, before I could think up an excuse, a time was set.
I worried that the associate pastor’s visit would be full of prayer and false reassurances. Rather than bow our heads, though, we chatted, talking about schools and kids. My health news was covered briefly, but the visit was light, bordering on cheery.
That night the head minister called. On vacation in Colorado to visit his new grandchild, he was the last person I expected to hear from. “I heard your news,” he said. “I just wanted to send you my love.” No prayers, no Bible verses, just warm thoughts.
The next day, I went to see my ophthalmologist, a man whom I casually knew from the Little League fields but who had never once mentioned that connection in his office. Yet, during that visit, his professional veil dropped. “Isn’t it nice the snow is melting,” he said. “We’ll be out watching our boys in no time.” Then, he drew his chair closer, “You’ll be OK. We’ll find you the best doctors.”
As the weeks passed, I found my mood shifting. While fear of the unknown stayed with me, I started to fill with happiness. There was almost a visible bounce in my step, a welcoming smile on my face.
The calming words of a doctor, the talk with a minister, the call from a neighbor may seem insignificant. Together, though, those tiny actions threw me into a deep pool of love.
My immediate crisis has passed; tests continue, but it could be another year -- perhaps even several years -- before surgery is recommended. Until then, there is a profound peace. We can happily hole up for a weekend with movies, popcorn and warm blankets, assured that when we step outside, we’ll be greeted with a swell of community support.
Cianfarani is an instructor for the State University of New York’s Empire State College. She lives in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.