Getting a dose of courage

Published 9:37 pm Thursday, July 18, 2019

It was a humbling experience to be in the treatment room at Virginia Oncology Associates while there to report a story about First Team Subaru and The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society delivering blankets to cancer patients.

Just to even observe patients and watch as a group from First Team Subaru handed out blankets and spoke to them over the course of about two hours was surreal.

As I talked with one of the patients in for treatment for breast cancer, she shared her story, and then we just talked. She talked about growing up in Portsmouth, and later moving to Suffolk, and we talked about all the changes going on in the northern end of the city.

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She looked much more youthful than her actual age let on, and as she sat in the chair next to her husband receiving her chemotherapy treatment, I couldn’t help but think of a friend who died earlier this week after being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer late last year.

She was a friend who I met while I was covering soccer in the Richmond area, and as she was a photographer at the matches I covered, I got to know her a little bit. We lost touch after I stopped covering soccer and moved away from that area, and I hadn’t seen her since that time, but we reconnected through social media and would occasionally comment on each other’s posts about cats, music, soccer and photography.

My friend did not want a lot of fuss about her, and so she shared with few people that she even had breast cancer. I did not know until after she had died. And even with those with whom she shared that news, she wouldn’t let on to its severity.

While I didn’t know my friend as well as others, I knew that she loved and adored cats. It’s what seemingly brought her peace and comfort in life.

And that’s what the folks from First Team Subaru were doing for the cancer patients. It wasn’t just about the blankets. The gesture was certainly a compassionate and nice one, but it was about giving the patients a small dose of peace and comfort through conversation, through listening, and yes, through the blankets.

The visit was more personal for William Key, a Subaru ambassador. The blankets and outreach to Virginia Oncology Associates was his idea, as Key had his own cancer treatment at the same location, and he went around and spoke with all of the patients who came into the treatment room during the more than two hours he was there.

The blankets for him seemed to be a pretext just to have those conversations — sharing treatment stories, sharing scars, sharing hope.

In my own conversation, and in listening in on some of the others, I was moved by the positive spirits in the room in such a trying circumstance. While I hope my own presence there was a positive one for those that were there — and for the woman I spent a little extra time with — the real truth is that I came away far more touched, moved, and humbled, than I could ever put into words.

I came away with a heavy dose of courage, and if you ever need one, spend some time with a cancer patient.

And if you sense someone is keeping an ordeal private, that’s OK, but be present in whatever way that person will let you. Even if they never say anything, it will mean something, and it will bring a comfort and peace to both of you.