Back in early March, Ilise, my wife, found a small lump in her right breast. At first she assumed it was nothing and didn’t want to do anything about it, but her doctor and her sister suggested she check it out. Fast forward four months and we have been on a roller coaster. Late May came the news that the little lump was cancerous. I can remember the moment when we found out, exactly where I was, exactly what was happening and the shock of finding out that Ilise has breast cancer. We have already been through surgery and so many doctors appointments we have lost count.
Although this has thrown our world upside down, especially after the emotional roller coaster I was on this spring in starting my new business, we are thankful for what we have. But this post is not about what’s happening to Ilise or our family, it’s about how the the community has responded to what is happening. To say that the world has opened up to us is an understatement. We moved to San Diego just over 6 years ago, and in that time we’ve met some great people. You just don’t know how generous people can be until something like this happens. When Ilise went in for surgery in July to remove the tumor, her best friend set up a “meal train” for her friends to help out. Over the next few weeks we received meals from family, friends and neighbors, some of whom we barely know. Drew (our daughter) was still back in NY at camp, so it was just Ilise, Noah and myself. We had food for weeks and Ilise didn’t need to think about anything other than getting healthy. When people dropped off the food they stayed and talked with Ilise, which was really wonderful. In these times we need each other more than we know.
Just last week one of her closest friends purchased a family photo shoot for us so we could have pictures before she loses her hair from the upcoming chemo treatments. A couple of days before the photo shoot Ilise received a note that someone had donated a make-up session and blow dry so that she could look extra special for the photo shoot. This was donated by someone who we have never met! It’s just amazing to me what is happening and how people are providing love and caring during this time. For the past couple of years Ilise has been volunteering at a thrift store that supports a local animal shelter. Her co-volunteers and staff there have been so supportive and loving. Her sister, Pam, who lives about 20 minutes from us has been doing whatever she can to support her sister through the process.
Through this entire experience, Ilise has been amazing, staying positive and looking at each step as a learning experience. She has even started to do some meditation. The night before her surgery one of my friends donated a guided deep breathing meditation that really helped during the prep for the surgery. Ilise has recently said that if this was happening to anyone else in the family she would be a mess, but since it’s happening to her she’s doing fine. It is amazing to see the calmness that she has been gaining through all the curve balls that have been thrown at us. This has become a full time job for her, managing appointments, keeping up with her exercise and providing updates to the dozens of people who reach out each day. The doctors we have worked with at UCSD have been amazing. If you know my wife, she can ask a lot of questions. The doctors have been patient and kind through this entire process and the level of care has been outstanding.
Over the next few months we will be dealing with chemo, radiation and then hormonal treatment for the next 10 years. They say that chemo can be pretty messy, so our friends will be setting up another meal train to help us out. Friends, my fellow Rotarians, my Sunday morning volleyball crew, our Indian Guides dads and total strangers have offered to provide rides for our kids or anything else that we might need. I couldn’t have imagined that something like cancer could bring so much peace and knowledge that the world is so kind and generous. Having done as much travel as we have, we’ve seen the best in human kind around the globe. It’s great to see it in our own community, when friends and neighbors can pull together to support a family that is facing hardship. I never thought that family would be ours, but the response has been overwhelming. Thank you for all the love and kindness, we are humbled by your generosity.
To a life well lived indeed!