my surgery, and true to Friedman's prediction on my medical leave paperwork, I was prepared--even eager--to be back at work by then. I know that this isn't true for a lot of folks with brain tumors, and I feel incredibly grateful that I'm feeling as well as I am.
And, in fact, gratitude is the theme of this post. Gratitude for niceness. Folks in my community have overwhelmed me with their kindness and thoughtfulness in the time since I was diagnosed. You'll see in the picture above a long string of all the cards I received, cards from colleagues and students, from former colleagues and mentors at Vanderbilt, from my old (and beloved!) Nashville book group, from members of both Biffle's and my parents' churches, and from zine creators and zine archivists I worked with in my book research. You'll notice the very large blue card on the mantel that was made by Women's and Gender Studies minors. In addition to cards, I got hundreds of emails, from colleagues and former students and friends from high school. And gifts: flowers and plants, clothing, books, political calendars called "Barbies We'd Like to See," zines, socks, stickers, soap, lotion, green tea, and if you'll look at the top framed print above, you'll see a picture that says "Keep Kicking Ass," written on the asses of the two gift givers. Plus lots of edibles: boxes of cookies from Sugar, brownies, a gift box of Zabar's best NYC food.
Speaking of food, this was gifted to us again and again--we had meals left on our porch every single night for at least the first three weeks after we came home, fabulous meals that I've mentioned before but probably haven't raved about nearly enough. We weren't just fed--we were comforted and indulged. And although this wasn't planned, we didn't receive the same meal twice, which was pretty cool.
Friends and family did so much for us--camped out at Duke Hospital, moved in with Maybelle while we were gone, moved in with us to help take care of Maybelle, drove long distances to visit (some folks on a very regular basis), coordinated all the food and other supports offered, cleaned the house, drove me around, brought over fun movies to watch. One even had a mass said on my behalf. And, of course, there was the one family member who reviewed all my medical records and offered brain-related expertise.
Even folks I don't know particularly well made sincere, generous offers. One friend hosted a reception for me before the surgery so that my colleagues and I could touch base before I disappeared. Another gave me a list of preferred hotels in the Duke area. A colleague I barely knew at all--really, someone I probably had not spoken to before--became a cherished presence in my life in the weeks before the surgery, when he started sending funny, sweet weekly emails offering help--any kind of help! Really! Weeds need pulling? Dog needs walking? You name it, I'm there! Although I feel a little sad that I wasn't able to come up with the quality or quantity of work he was willing to do, his emails themselves were quite a lovely form of help.
And folks I don't know at all became incredibly helpful, too, like a woman who is a Women's Studies director in another state, and who had a brain tumor removed three years ago. She sent me many lengthy, incredibly informative and comforting emails before the surgery, answering all my questions and also offering me regularly scheduled penguin jokes.
In the midst of all of this, I've said to a number of friends, "There are clearly many people in the world who are much nicer than I am." They'll sometimes laugh, because I think I have the vibe of a nice person. But in fact, I haven't been as aware of other folks, as attuned to what they might need, and as willing to reach out as many of my friends, colleagues, and people I hardly even knew have been. They have been stellar examples, and I'm really grateful.
One of my goals for myself in the wake of this experience is to be nicer.
2 years ago