When Your Sick Friends Need You, This Is All You Have To Do

Scan time is upon us me once again. In three days I’ll drive three hours to sit in a waiting room and wait impatiently for someone to call my name. I’ll answer all the questions I’ve answered too many times before. No, I’m not claustrophobic. No, I’m not pregnant. Nope. No kidney disease either.

I’ll make my usual jokes about how great my veins are. I’ll explain how I have to look away while they start the IV, but I won’t pass out. I’ll pass on the gown. I have my own MRI uniform. I know the drill. I’ll take a dozen pictures of my lucky socks just to pass the time.

And I’ll wait some more. My mind will go to all the bad places, but I’ll get through it because I have to. I’m sick. This is what I do now. This is my life.

I don’t expect bad news this time. I imagine I’ll have my scan, as I have so many times before. I’ll run upstairs and make it to my oncologist’s office just in time. We’ll chat. She’ll be happy with what she sees. We’ll make a plan for next time. I imagine my next appointment will be in a year, a benchmark I’ve long been waiting for.

And still, I’m scared. Quite frankly, I’m terrified.

This never goes away, the disease I have. Nor does the fear, the worry.

I’m scared, but it probably doesn’t show. My insides are twisted in knots. Sometimes I get a sharp pain that feels like a knife in my heart. My mind is racing, my brain bogged down with thoughts. Some silly, some dark.

Will there be traffic? I don’t want to be late. What if I get a flat tire? Will they ask me about the bill? I don’t have two grand. I’m embarrassed to have to say that. Will I cry when she tells me the results? Will they be happy tears or sad? I don’t know if I can afford chemo. I don’t know how much more my body can stand.

Those are just a tiny sampling of the things that pop up in my brain during the days leading to my scan. That’s a five minute snapshot of what it’s like to be me these days. And it’s probably not obvious to anyone but me. I hide it for reasons you may not understand.

I have to keep it together. I have a husband and a child that need me. I have friends who are going through their own struggles. I worry that if I let it go the dam will break and I’ll never get me back where I belong. I think about your fatigue in hearing this time and time again. I worry you’ll get tired of me.

It makes sense that I tend to get a little squirrely when a scan is impending. Even after all these years, it’s never gotten easier. And with every passing day, I’m watching a lifetime of this unfurling before me. The weight of it is often times unbearable.

Even though it goes against my controlling nature, I have finally learned one very important lesson in all this. I need you. And I need you to do only one thing.

What do you need? That’s it. That’s all. That one question. Once, twice, a dozen times or more.

And what do I need? The answer is, I don’t know. From one minute to the next it could be a number of things, but I need you. I need you to ask. I just need to know that you care.

I might also need a laugh, or a cry, or a pint of ice cream. Maybe I want to talk or maybe we’ll sit in some awkward silence. Thoughts, prayers, juju, and good vibes, a card sent in the mail, all are welcome, but maybe that’s just me. Candy always helps, just so you know.

It’s possible I just need your patience while my understandable anxiety manifests into an irrational tirade about something insignificant. Or maybe it’s something easy like a cup of coffee together. Sometimes I just want you to make it feel like it’s any other day.

I need a high five, a fist bump, a hug. Maybe I need all three. Don’t send me a link to bad news. Instead, send me memes. Tell me it’s going to be okay for me to not be okay. Let me feel what I need. Tell me about you. I didn’t stop caring because I’m busy worrying about me.

But really, it’s simple. There’s not much to it. It starts with one question.

What do you need?

That’s really all you have to do.