My Home Away From Home

By Beverly Vargo

I tell people the Cancer Support Community is my home away from home, but that doesn’t mean that I’m there every day or that I participate in every activity or workshop they have to offer. I pick and choose what works best for me and right now that’s Tai Chi, Zumba Gold, and gentle Yoga. I was happy I was able to do Zumba Gold again with my walker because I’d missed the music and the camaraderie from when I attended before I developed neuropathy as a side affect of my last chemo. My best friend and main support person goes with me and, incredibly, it’s all free.

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I also attend a support group for cancer patients and surprisingly, we laugh more than we cry.

Last year, we lost one of the long time members of our support group, and we formed a team in remembrance of her for the annual road rally fundraiser, the Amazing Race.  We dressed like gangsters and their molls and said we were Maureen’s Mob: dedicated to rubbing out cancer.

We didn’t know each other very well before the event and I didn’t realize my navigator was someone who frequently got lost, and she wanted to work with someone with Alzheimer’s, and my dad fit the bill. Our backseat team was better at figuring out the clues, but we still got back after everyone else returned. We didn’t win, but we had fun, forged friendships, and contributed to keeping the Cancer Support Community active.

I’m home now since I’m unable to teach given my health, and I was looking for an activity to get me through the winter. I’ve wanted to know how to knit or crochet, but my mother, who was always right, said I didn’t have the patience to learn. Donna McCauley proved my mother wrong, as she taught me how to knit at the Sit and Knit group.  I was shopping for a scarf for my daughter for Christmas when it suddenly dawned on me I could knit one myself and it was beautiful. Most recently I started knitting small woodland animals, gnomes, and mushrooms for an indoor fairy garden for my granddaughter. Next winter, I’d like to start on safari animals for my grandson. (I haven’t attempted to crochet yet, so there’s still a chance my mother was right after all—we’ll see.)

I’ve also attended several of the medical workshops offered in the evenings by resident gurus in the various fields, and I have found them understandable as well as informative. Of course they can’t answer specific questions about our personal medical problems, but I usually learn something to take back to ask my oncologist and she was actually one of the presenters.

The cooking workshops and potlucks are also a chance to meet spouses and significant others as well as eat great food that’s also good for you.

I think the activities for children and families are my favorites, such as gathering at Gallup Park and Movie Night. I’ve taken my grandchildren and at the last movie night my granddaughter said she made a new friend and she’s her best friend. When I feel like throwing in the towel and heading for that last big roundup in the sky, these are the things that make my life worth living.

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Comments 5

  1. Erica Perry

    I am the lucky one to be Bev’s friend who gets to partake of Tai Chi and Zumba and sometimes be Bev’s wheels to various events. Having been a medical social worker for 40 years, I am blown away by this organization’s commitment to VIEWING PEOPLE AS PEOPLE VS THEIR DISEASE and this extends to family and close friends like me! I have seen this missing in the academic hospital setting and am so aware that if we do allow medical care to extend to the whole person, life is so much better for us all, and that includes the medical staff.
    I have been so grateful to this organization that I chose to support it with a fundraising event where a portion of holiday sales from my woodturning club benefit this heartfelt support community.

    1. Beverly Vargo

      Thanks, Erica. Let’s not fight over who is the lucky one, but I do feel lucky to have the support of the Cancer Support Community. Recently I was in New Orleans, visiting my daughter when I fell and broke the tibia and fibula just above my ankle. I went to Urgent Care and then they referred me to Tulane Medical Center. The specialist there said, “Given your life expectancy, there’s no point in doing surgery.” He was treating me like I was my disease, not an individual. Fortunately, I was able to share that experience with some members of my support group who expressed their outrage. When I was going to my orthopedic appointment at U of M, Erica coached me that I could come from “Given my life expectancy, what’s the point?” or “I’m a whole person who is exploring all avenues of health and wellness,” and that’s what I chose. I’m lucky to have a coach like Erica in my life as well.

  2. Marsha Graham

    I heard your voice in my ear reading your article. Your giggle when you say something kind a profound – it’s rather lovely !

    1. Beverly Vargo

      Thanks, Marsha. You’re a good writer yourself, so I appreciate your comments. I was feeling sorry for myself now that I have a cast on my leg and won’t be able to babysit my grandkids who bring me so much joy. At the same time, my husband was worrying about how he was going to leave me alone at home in a wheelchair while he goes to work. I had a brainstorm that maybe I could go over to my son and daughter-in-law’s house and they could babysit me when my husband’s working! Of course I’ll get to play games with the grandkids, but probably not soccer!

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