Updated: Jan 16
A few days before the news of Covid-19 was announced my forty-two-year-old son, who co-parents grandson Lukas, was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer.
I was devastated. Why was this happening to US? How could this happen to MY son who has been here for family and friends his entire life? Nothing about this is fair.
Over the next few days, my inner dialogue was non-stop. And when I thought about my words “happening to US,” and “MY son,” I realized this wasn’t happening to US. This wasn't about me. Cancer was happening to my son and the challenges he was about to face with two major operations, chemotherapy, and a long, excruciating road to what would hopefully lead to remission.
The grandson I have raised since birth and adopted was born with a rare syndrome that includes kidney disease, lack of stomach muscles, and a large bladder. Last week four-year-old Lukas had a kidney and bladder scan, revealing the disease has progressed. Next week we will have more tests, praying the scan is wrong, I am told, could very well be the case.
Once again, realizing it's not about me wasn't easy. As every parent knows, our children are the most important people in our lives. Their pain, their worries, and their fears become ours. When I understood my role was to support, not add more stress, my mindset changed. I became stronger, warding off thoughts of what could be and focusing on what I could offer.
All this happened during an epidemic that confined the three of us to our home, forcing us not to interact with two other sons and brothers, let alone friends. No more get-togethers for Sunday brunch. No more holidays where laughter filled my home. Because we live together if one of us contracts Covid we are all at risk.
In spite of Facebook posts and twitters from those who believe this past year is about them; their lives; their freedom to do what they want to do, in reality, it’s “about US,” Every single one of us; every single family member, every neighbor and friend, we all count. Everyone struggles to keep afloat, whether it be financially or emotionally. Many of us are the main, if not sole support for a family member with a life-threatening disease.
For the first time in my life, I reached out for help. As many of us know, asking for support for those of us who feel we can handle whatever is tossed our way is next to impossible. And yet, this past year has been too big for me to handle alone.
I reached out to Facebook for moral support. I started a Go Fund Me page for my son as there was no way he could keep afloat with all the outrageous medical bills pouring in. What happened next was nothing less than a miracle.
Those from every walk of life started showing up; from friends I hadn’t seen since high school, authors I’ve met in my career as a writer, to my son’s coworkers and friends, many struggling financially but wanted to help in any way they could. One wonderful lady donated twenty dollars out of every paycheck to my son's Go Fund Me. With open hearts and arms, people sheltered us from what could have become a much greater storm. When people reached out to me I found myself reaching out to others. Funny how that works. The more kindness shed, the more you want to give of yourself.
For those who have lost loved ones that have succumbed to Covid, or cancer, or heart attacks, it is about you. Or, if you have, or had, Covid the focus needs to be you. But for those of us who remain healthy we need to remember those who have not been as fortunate. Many have lost jobs and businesses and have no way to make their next house or rent payments. Some depend on food banks and kind-hearted souls who have the financial means to help. But those with more cash than needed are difficult to find.
Words are meaningless to someone caught in the eye of a virus or debilitating disease that has no mercy. To say ‘everything will be alright,’ or ‘everything happens for a reason’ only increases shame, fear, and hopelessness.
So, how can we help? How can we offer peace of mind when we don't have the means to help? The answer is by connecting them to local resources. Not national resources, local resources.
I live in Iowa so I have researched where to find help. Using these sites as examples should help you help yourself or others find resources in your state. For instance: https://humanrights.iowa.gov/covid-19/financial-assistance This agency provides help with rent and foreclosure issues, as well as food and energy bills.
https://www.iowacasa.org/covid19 Iowa Casa helps with everything from legal, emotional, financial, housing resources, and student loans.
https://www.211iowa.org/ Another organization that can lead you to organizations willing to help.
Churches are another source to turn for help, especially those with large congregations. Many are willing to pay partial or full payments for rent or housing for one or two months. And they do it immediately. Many times churches have food banks and offer other household needs such as clothing and cleaning supplies.
Call your utility company. There are many companies with a plan in place for those affected by the pandemic as well as life-changing happenstances.
Reach out for yourself if needed or lead others to resources.
Another great source for help is by looking up, giving thanks for our blessings, and knowing we are never alone.
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