by Lois Zinn
“You’ve come such a long way” said my upstairs neighbor, Frannie when I told her a year had already passed from the day I learned I had cancer. On that bleak February day, I hardly knew Frannie when I told her my diagnosis in the hope that she would watch my cat during my unexpected hospital stay. To my relief, she did, and to my surprise, so much more.
With my family thousands of miles away, Frannie was an angel, driving me to and from tutoring appointments weeks after surgery, before I was allowed to drive or lift anything. She would carry my weighty, book-filled totes, wait patiently during the session, and take me home again. Weeks later, when I dreaded the idea of traveling hundreds of miles to see a doctor I thought could save me, Frannie went above and beyond, enthusiastically volunteering to drive me there and back. “I don’t expect you to do that!” I told her, but Frannie insisted, saying, “My brother lives there, and I would love the chance to see him.”
Talking made the time fly on our six-hour drive in Frannie’s old, blue Subaru. I remember wanting to stop at the Lancaster quilting shops but our forging ahead instead on our seemingly endless journey. At one point, I thanked Frannie for all her help, and she thanked me, too, saying that she had become too complacent in life and was inspired by my will to live.
Certainly, my belief that I could recover and choosing a doctor wisely have contributed greatly to my healing. Diet, supplements, and stress reduction continue to be of paramount importance. Equally, though, if not more important, has been support from others, like Frannie, who show they care: my friends and coworkers who raised over $2,500 for me to pay for doctor’s expenses that I could not afford otherwise; my boyfriend who took weeks off from work to care for me in the early dark days; my meditation teacher who freely offered his gift of energy healing and who made me aware of subtle patterns of behavior I needed to change; the acupuncturist who built up my immune system and refused to take a cent; the healing gifts of a juicer, Needak trampoline, and music/meditation CD’s; visitors with meals; phone calls, emails, and prayers, even an anonymous benefactor who paid for ceramics lessons, which was a form of therapy in my return to health.
Growing up in a Brooklyn high rise, neighbors were mysterious figures behind metallic, green doors. Back then I was raised to believe we were independent entities, responsible only to ourselves; I had no real understanding of the power of community. I see life differently now and am blown away and infinitely grateful to the loving beings in my midst.