Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Chemo Angels

In my effort to be all things breast cancer to all people, I recently took part in a wonderful program called Chemo Angels. What's that? Well, you sign up to be an angel to someone going through chemo. You volunteer to send 2 things a week... cards, little gifts, funny pictures, whatever. Sounds great, right? Well, in theory it is. And I was so super excited about it. I was assigned to another young woman with breast cancer. I eagerly gathered little journals, bath salts, snacks and whatever to send to my new charge.

Here's the problem. I realized that I am not a good chemo angel. Aside from the inevitable mailing things twice a week, which - if anyone knows my family - is not really a strong suit, there's the whole "no expectations" thing. Chemo angel recipients are told they are under no obligation to respond. This isn't pen pals, mentoring or anything remotely two way. In fact I was sending things for about a month before I even heard that my person had received anything. I guess in my mind, I was hoping there would be an email or a note saying thanks and that would lead me to helping walk her through her treatment. Not so much. I got 2 short notes from my person. 2 notes in 4 months with me sending things twice a week. And when her chemo was over, I got a note from the program saying she had graduated. No "I'm done... thanks for everything!" Nothing. Nada.

Now, I know this is what I signed up for. And I should still feel good. I mean, who doesn't love getting flowers? or cookie bouquets? So I know I probably helped her through her experience. But I've realized I'm a little selfish. I'm not quite a good enough person to do it just for them. I guess I want to feel good about it, too. And I can't do it anonymously. Not that I need recognition, but I was hoping it would be the beginning of my path to guiding others, and I never got the chance to do that. And I guess there's a part of me that's like, "really? Someone sends you hundreds of dollars in stuff and you can't send a little more than a tiny card?" Maybe cuz if it were me, I would have reached out desperately for another young woman... I didn't know any when I started treatment. But then again, it's not about me, is it? But I have realized I want to be someone more like a mentor.

Now, I still think this is an awesome program. And for those of you who are better people than me - go for it! But I'm no longer a chemo angel. I don't think I could do another person who didn't respond. I'm just not that nice, I guess.