Some Assembly Required

Monday, July 25, 2011

You, Too, Can Be A Mylar Balloon!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011, is a day that many Shreveporters (including Yours Truly) will remember for quite some time.  We were on about day 20 of a string of days over 100 degrees.  Add to that the infamous humidity of Louisiana, and you have some miserable folks!  However, as long as there was air conditioning, we were in good shape!  That all changed around 2:30pm when 8900 electrical customers suddenly lost power—cool air and all!  At around 10:30pm that night, that number had grown to 17,000 hot, sweaty, cranky customers.  We were all pondering the possible reasons for this problem:  there had been no storm, no lightning, no thunder. Hmmm!  What could have possibly caused such havoc in the electrical system? We found out the next day that, much to our surprise, one small, shiny mylar balloon had come into contact with some power lines.  Imagine that—one little, bitty balloon having such an unbelievable impact on so many people’s lives.   

At that time, I was already working on a blog about the many opportunities that we are given to impact someone else’s life for the good.  Sometimes, we forego that opportunity, thinking that the one little, bitty thing that we might do would never amount to much.  I think that we underestimate what God can do with the little that we give Him:  we give him our little effort, and He produces something similar to a mylar balloon that can impact many—but in a good way! 

(This is a continuation of my last blog which was entitled
“People Who, Unknowingly, Made My Day.”) 


Anyone who has had chemo or ever had to go for cancer lab work (especially if using a port) knows that you dress for comfort and so that the port can be easily accessed.  You really don’t worry a lot about how you look, especially if you know you’re going to be there for several hours.  My uniform for chemo days was a knit-like fabric—a jogging suit—stretchy, in other words.  Since my port is up near my right collar bone, I had one particular kind of shirt that I always wore (which just happened to be white), and I usually wore the same white scarf on my bald head because it was easy.  It didn’t require a lot of effort which was another requirement for what I wore.  Kristy, one of our daughters, had commented a time or two (or twelve!) that I needed to wear a scarf with some color in it to give my face some “life” because, obviously, there was no hair there to add any color.  Honestly, having a colorful face was way down my list of priorities at the time.     

One day when Earl and I were out and about, a very kind lady made my day by commenting on my looks.  He and I had gone to the cancer center for an in-between-treatments check-up.  It was one of those rare days when not only was I feeling somewhat close to human, but we had gotten into and out of the lab as well as my oncologist’s office in a timely manner.   

As we were leaving the clinic, I asked if we could go to Julie Anne’s for lunch, and since I hadn’t felt like going anywhere (especially to eat!) in months, Earl was thrilled.  Julie Anne’s is one of my favorite places to eat—a small bakery with wonderful food.  Chemo often leaves a metallic taste in the mouth which makes eating not very interesting; I usually ate only because I knew I had to to stay out of the hospital.  That day, even with the metallic taste, Julie Anne’s Turkey Walnut Wrap had never tasted better; I think it was just the idea that I felt sort of normal.  

After we ate, we got up to leave, and at the small table behind me was an older woman (older than me; not old).  She was a classy looking lady, not flashy or gaudy but very well put-together—had a sweet, beautiful smile.  As I stood for Earl to push my chair under the table, I glanced her way, and we made eye contact.  She said, “Honey, you look beautiful in white.  Not many people can pull that off.”  I was so shocked that it took me a few seconds to realize what she had said, but I thanked her.  I also told her, laughingly, about Kristy’s prompting me to wear color, and I assured that kind woman  that I would share her comment with Kristy. 

That woman had no idea how good she made me feel that day.  But, then again—maybe she did.  Maybe she had been in my shoes at one time and remembered what it felt like.  Whatever her reason for speaking to me, God bless her for having the wisdom and the courage to say just the right thing to me and absolutely make my day. 


            When I was going through chemo treatments, my sister, who lives in Texas, made arrangements with my local florist for me to receive fresh flowers every Thursday around noon.  This was to go on for the duration of chemo, so I always had fresh flowers—often, two arrangements if the arrangement from the previous week was still healthy.  What a neat thing—something to look forward to every week! 

            The person who usually made the deliveries was a man, probably around my age or a little older.  He was very kind and always took a few minutes to chat, asking how I was doing, etc.  Since I almost never wore a scarf when I was home, he knew from day one what my bald head looked like.  One Thursday, it was a cool day, so I was wearing a scarf.  The doorbell rang; I went to answer it, and there stood my favorite delivery man with my flowers.  We did our usual little chit-chat, and he started to leave, but he turned back around to face me before he stepped off the porch and said, “By the way, you look much better without that scarf.”  What a precious thing to say!  I don’t know what made him say that, but needless to say, he made my day! 


            I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but life can be tough sometimes!  Just getting up and dealing with another day can be a huge challenge for folks going through a valley of some kind.   Maybe you know someone who is dealing with financial issues, family problems, lack of employment, a devastating illness or maybe it’s just a smaller, temporary problem like dealing with a cranky co-worker or locking her keys in her car.  No matter what the case, we all have people around us daily who need us to take a few minutes to check on them, call them, send them a card, share a smile.  If we all did that consistently every day, can you imagine the impact that we would have?  We could be like that one, little bitty mylar balloon that impacts many lives---but in a good way!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

People Who, Unknowingly, Made My Day

            Have you ever just known (“Is that you, God?”) that you were supposed to do something specific for someone—make a telephone call to check on her, speak to someone that you don’t know as you pass her in the store, mail a card, help a mom with little ones carry groceries to her car, or just give someone an eye-to-eye smile—yet, for whatever reason, you didn’t do it?  Has it ever crossed your mind what that little “something” might have meant to that person?  (See previous blog, A Most Unusual Funeral)  Believe it or not, we are often meant to be “players” in other people’s lives even if we don’t know them.  I was truly blessed by my family and friends during the year that I had cancer, and I’ll talk about them later.  But for the next couple of blogs, I want to introduce you to some other people who truly “made my day” the year I had cancer. 


            I am very accustomed to wearing makeup; it’s a daily habit.  I consider it a public service to my fellow Shreveporters—you know, “paint the barn,” “cover the ugly,” etc.  I get up and before I start every day, I go through the same routine to decorate my face; it just makes me feel better.  Besides, when you’re a woman and you’ve got a bald head, you need all the help you can get!   

            The American Cancer Society has a program for women who are in treatment of cancer.  It’s called Look Good—Feel Better.  One of the things that they do during this session is to give the women beauty products and teach them how to use them so that they leave the class feeling as if they have had something of a makeover.  I had attended one of those classes on a Monday.  On Wednesday, my husband suggested that since I was having some “good days,” perhaps we could get out of town overnight in order to be back for chemo early Friday morning.  We hadn’t done that in ages, so we threw some things together, got in the car, and headed to Longview, TX.  No big plan—eat out, maybe do a little shopping; mainly, we would just have a different set of four walls to look at. 

            By the time we were on our way, it was lunch time, so we stopped at a fried fish restaurant (a staple in TX and LA) on the way.  We had a very perky, sociable young woman who took our orders, but before she ever took care of our food, she looked at me and said, You have beautiful skin—just like porcelain!  Absolutely beautiful!  I don’t know if it was noticeable or not, but I’m sure I sat and stood a little taller after that.  That woman did not know me; she could have simply done her job of taking our order and walked away, but she followed that instinct, and I’m so grateful she did because she really made my day!   


            When you’re having cancer treatments and go to the cancer center with any regularity, you eventually get accustomed to seeing people around you wearing wigs, hats, scarves and, occasionally, nothing at all on their heads.  But I must admit that it takes a little getting used to; that happened to me very early on. 

            I had had probably just one chemo treatment which wasn’t enough for me to start losing my hair, but the thought of that loss was never far from my mind.  As I walked in the front door of the Cancer Center, there was a group of perhaps 10-12 people, entering and exiting.  But one woman in particular stood out to me; she had to have been 6’2” tall at least, maybe more.  She was, literally, head and shoulders above everyone else in the group, and she carried herself like a beauty queen.  She would have stood out in a crowd no matter what the situation because she was a tall, big-boned woman.  Not overweight, not even plump, not even what our daughters (as children) would have called “fluffy”—just a large woman—very attractive, and she had a beautiful smile that she shared freely with those around her.    

She was what I would have called stunning.  She seemed calm, peaceful, and in love with life.  But to me, the most striking thing about her was her totally bald head—no scarf, no wig, no hat, no cap—just that beautiful, bald head.  I was so amazed at her demeanor and the way she carried herself that I immediately felt a peace come over me that I had not experienced since the whole cancer thing had begun.  Not only had this woman made my day, but, without knowing it, she had had an effect on me that lasted the entire span of my treatments.    


            B.C. (Before cancer), I was a little introverted, not always feeling comfortable speaking to or making eye contact with people I didn’t know.  Cancer taught me a lot of things, and one of those things is that deep-down, we’re all alike—whether we want to admit it or not.  We all want to be loved and accepted, and, at one time or another, we all go through things when we need a little extra attention even if it’s from a total stranger.  Since people are so good at wearing that “everything’s-okay-with-me” fa├žade, I have no way of knowing who is experiencing one of those times when she needs some extra attention, so I’ve started trying to connect with everyone I see.  I came to realize that I may be the only smile someone will receive that day, and I would hate for her to miss it.  Those little things cost nothing, not even a lot of time, but they are invaluable to the recipient.