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Sunday, Oct 26, 2014
Commentary

When battling disease, small comforts can make a world of difference


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Although June is designated as Men’s Health Month — a time to raise awareness of personal health among men and boys — not a month of my life goes by without taking time to reflect on the moment I learned about the tumor pressing on my brain, changing my life forever.

Having felt total shock at being thrust immediately into life-saving surgery, I also knew at that point that I would need to make some significant adjustments in my outlook on life and how I lived it day to day.

It was in the hospital after the surgery, surrounded by my family, when I realized truly how short life was. I assured myself there was no reason to hold myself back on the passions that brought me the most joy.

I found I had a desire to return to my creative roots and live with passion. This new life included exposure to new experiences, such as tai chi and a healthier lifestyle.

Since leaving the hospital, I have lost 80 pounds. I found great comfort in being healthy, writing and new experiences. I also was thankful to return home in time to watch the 50th anniversary episode of British science-fiction show “Doctor Who,” my favorite television show.

It was moments such as these that brought me joy.

Now having completed my first round of chemotherapy treatment not too long ago, I’ve learned more and more about how important simple comforts have helped me get through the most draining and painful times. Although research to find a cure is of the utmost importance, I’ve found that simple comforts right there in the moment while battling cancer can sometimes be overlooked.

For me, returning to comforts such as writing, particularly with such social media tools as Twitter, as well as my blog, Soul Prism, both of which document my cancer journey, have made such a difference in my attitude and outlook on life. I felt as if writing again had revived me and allowed me to express a side of me that hadn’t come out in years. I have big plans for my writing career — hoping to one day write a novel.

Beyond looking to writing and tai chi, I found comfort in a care package that was delivered to me while receiving treatment. This care package, called a Comfort Kit, had been provided to me through a nonprofit called Giving Comfort. I soon learned while sifting through this care package that Giving Comfort seeks to soothe discomfort for patients across the country who are going through treatment through their thoughtful kits.

The Comfort Kit includes a backpack which has been very helpful. I use it to hold my medical paperwork and important cancer information. Practical items included in the kit, such as the blanket and socks, were particularly helpful when I received radiation treatment in the very cold room at the hospital.

But the item I enjoyed the most was, naturally, the journal, which gave me a place to write and express the many emotions I was feeling while going through this journey.

Receiving this Comfort Kit showed me that others out there, along with my great family and friends, are there to support me.

Although some struggle with how to support their loved ones who may be battling cancer or other terrible diseases, my piece of advice is to keep in mind that small comforts can make a world of difference. Whether it’s a book they might enjoy, or even making their favorite dessert, small comforts can help soothe discomfort more than people realize, and can make a huge impact in someone’s life. And in the case of the Comfort Kit, a huge impact in a stranger’s life.

While I continue my battle with cancer, I will always keep in mind how my hobbies brought me back to life.

Every person who will go through a difficult time will realize how these small comforts can make all of the difference right there in the moment and will remind them that they, too, are not alone.

Andrew Langerman lives in Brandon.

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