A Community Thing

Hi there. I’m Erica. Been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry about that.

I have been elbows deep in my real life, for good and for bad. This blog is real enough. It’s as true as it needs to be. The stuff I write about doing, I actually do. The rants about food politics, I actually believe. But topics are curated, as they must be. Huge swaths of my life just aren’t really Life On Garden Time material, and so I generally do not include them.

Sometimes, like recently, those non-bloggable swaths fill up my brain so much that forcing myself to write about radishes and peas just to get content published seems false somehow.

One of my oldest, closest friends’s 2-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer a month ago.

Clasp Hands

This friend and I go back a long way, nearly 30 years. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding, I threw a baby shower for her first child, and I can still mentally walk through the rooms of her childhood home. She’s one of those friends who helped shape for the better the person I ended up becoming as an adult.

Her daughter Lydia has been in the hospital since her diagnosis, and it’s been alternating moments of punched-in-the-gut, hope, helplessness, deep sorrow and love. And that’s just for me.

Lydia’s cancer is very aggressive, and so the treatment plan for this precious, precocious, beautiful little girl has to be equally aggressive.

There is something especially unfair about a teeny person with a huge illness. And when you are a parent, you feel deep in your blood that this is every parent’s nightmare scenario.

My fellow blogger and friend The Crunchy Chicken wrote a wonderful blog post, What To Expect When Your Loved One Has Cancer, that helped me to better understand what my friend, as the mom to a little cancer fighter, is going through right now.

And just yesterday I read a great piece, How Not To Say The Wrong Thing, that offers a formula for not putting your foot in your mouth and being inadvertently insensitive to someone during a difficult health event.

I am a fairly action-oriented person, and I have found that helping my friend in tangible ways – bringing lunch, reading to her daughter, doing laundry – whenever I can makes me feel so much better. I hope it helps her, too, of course, but really these acts of giving are selfish. I feel less helpless about this big scary cancer thing when I’m helping with little throw-away things like sandwiches and coffee.

What has struck me as I attempt to help my friend (and myself) during this strage, difficult time is that there is a huge amount of trickle down empathy in this world. People, most of them, are good decent souls when shocked out of their own routine with something inescapably real like a sick kid.

In order that I could sit with my friend at the hospital and help her during Lydia’s chemotherapy last week, my boss watched my son for two hours, Homebrew Husband’s boss let him work from home and my mom was on standby to help with childcare if need be so that Homebrew Husband could actually work while at home with our young son.

A community is a remarkable web of people who, when they all reach out and grasp hands at the same time, are able to hold nearly anything. Homebrew Husband’s boss doesn’t know my friend. She didn’t grow up with her and she has no specific investment in this one particular little girl with cancer. And yet, when my husband said, “Erica’s childcare arrangements fell through and she has a hospital visit scheduled,” she told him to just do whatever he needed to do. She’s part of this trickle down support network of people who are, ever so slightly, supporting a sick child and a family in need.

You guys, all you readers who have made it this far in this post, you are part of that community too. You are part of my network, and so, even though you do not know her or her family, you are part of Lydia’s vast extended network of support too.

If you pray, please include Lydia in your prayers. If you light candles, light one for her. If you feel spirituality when your bare toes curl into beach sand, send a whisper of hope out over the waves. If you find all the divine you need in the shine of the stars, cast a wish upward tonight that a very brave little girl and her family will have years of stargazing together ahead of them.

Grasp hands, just for a moment. Please.

And if you have children, hug them just a bit tighter today and tell them you love them.


  1. says

    I don’t know how to bring comfort to you, your family and to your friend as I myself went recently through a huge tragedy; through that tragedy I know how you and your friend must be feeling now, but it has also taught me that whatever words people say around me really become meaningless. So, I will not burden you with words but with this link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2246312/Girl-7-beats-leukaemia-revolutionary-treatment-using-HIV-virus-wire-immune-system.html
    Please read it as this is a very new treatment, not everyone knows about it and I think only in Pittsburgh this new cancer treatment is available. It’s a very new and revolutionary treatment apparently.

  2. Victoria says

    So sorry to hear about this precious little one. Your friend is blessed to have you by her side. Thanks for sharing this story. Lots of prayers will be said for this dear little one…count on it.
    God bless.

  3. Evonne says

    Hi Erica
    What a beautifully written post. I have been there as a parent of a child who had cancer. My daughter was three. I admire your courage and vulnerability. It’s hard at times to find the words when needing support from your larger community.
    In my case the things that touched me the deepest were the small unexpected things that arrived when you needed them most, a note, a bouquet of hand picked flowers. The driveway shoveled after a night of two feet of snow and you have to load up the kids and get to the cancer clinic for a 9 am appointment. It’s been 25 years, but I still remember those small gestures as messages of hope.

  4. tanaya ropp says

    My thought are with you and your family, your friend and family as well. May the best happen in a timely manner.


  5. Ian says

    I want you to know the my family and I pray for Lydia and her family every day since we first learned about her cancer a month ago. They are very special people to us and our church in Bellingham. It has been a very hard, but unifying experience for our church as many of us have families with young children. Thank you for being hands and feet to our prayers and part of a larger community to serve these wonderful people.
    In my selfishness, I guess I can live with fewer garden posts since I know you are helping to take care of Lydia and her family.

    • Kindsister says

      Ian, Well said. I agree. Erica, we are not going anywhere! Anything that you need to do, you go do it. Love & brightest blessings to Lydia & all brought together by her fierce battle.

  6. Sara says

    Absolutely beautiful post. You and your family are a blessing to your friends, just as they have been to you. It is always heartbreaking to hear of a young child burdened with anything horrible. All my best thoughts to the whole community of helpers who are watching over this little girl.

  7. says

    I can’t even imagine how hard it must be for everyone connected to this darling girl. My daughter’s birthday is today, she turns 3, and I can’t help but be reminded how to cherish every moment. We will be praying for this family.

  8. says

    I can’t assure you that it will get better – as someone who has watched cancer eat at her family, I can tell you it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be confused, angry, and damn it, down right furious. I have so, so much hatred for those evil little cells gone wrong, whether they be in someone I know and love dearly, or someone I have never met. My heart cries for them; it cries for the mother who comforts her child, and for the Father who comforts the mother when the child is sleeping safe, at the hospital.

    I just cry. I hold my hands up, look to Heaven, and I cry. I can’t say I know what your friend and her husband are dealing with – the closest we got to losing a child was when my daughter, only 18 months or so at the time, decided to squeeze through the bars on our second story patio, and fell to the ground, narrowly missing cement steps. But that was close enough for me. To have to live with the knowledge that your child has cancer…it’s too much to bear. Your dear friend is in my thoughts, my prayers, and I will be passing this darling child and her family along to our prayer team at church – we may not know her, but she’s part of our Body in Christ…and that makes her kin. We pray for kin where I come from. :) May God not only comfort them through this journey, but guide the hearts and hands in their “village” – it takes a village to raise a child, and that village includes care professionals. May they be guided, and comfort this family as they need them right now.

  9. says

    Just wanted to voice that you are heard, we are here, and the blog always waits. It’s funny – this community… we get to know each other through posts and comments and FB likes. And sometimes just the simplest comment can be so uplifting.
    Holding you, Lydia, and your families in my thoughts and prayers.

  10. says

    I’m so sorry. The heartache is huge and the journey is so scary. I will be praying for Lydia, her family and her broader community. May they all be well supported and know they are deeply loved.

    I read this post recently (written by a woman with terminal, stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, writer, mom to two school-aged kids) and thought you’d appreciate it’s wisdom, too. http://lisabadams.com/2013/04/05/some-thoughts-on-how-to-be-a-friend-to-someone-with-a-serious-illness/

  11. says

    I’m so sorry for this. I wanted to send a link to a space that we love, sparkle stories, which are online audio stories for children. They are lovely and sweet and might be a helpful thing for a small person to listen to if/when large people run out of reading voice. My son and I often listen to them together. http://www.sparklestories.com; there’s a bunch of free content to try out first to see if you like them.

  12. STH says

    It is amazing what people will do to help if you just ask, though that’s sometimes hard to do; I found this out when my father was going through his final illness.

    All the best to you and all. I will make a small donation today to the American Cancer Society and I hope others will do the same. Fuck cancer.

  13. Karen says

    Oh Erica, those things you are doing are no where near “throw away”. Those are the basis of compassion, empathy, understanding and support that envelope your friend and her daughter and family in a circle of love. Those “little things” help them feel like they are not being swallowed hole by this, that there are lifelines all around them. They are the true essence of caring. And that love and support will always, no matter how bad things get, will ALWAYS be bigger, more powerful and more beautiful than the cancer they are facing.
    My mum is battling stage 4 lung cancer. I am walking this journey with her as her primary care provider and I can tell you, that some of the most beautiful expressions of caring have come from someone just sitting with mum, or me, offering a tea or a muffin or a shoulder. Your friend is so lucky to have you. Thank you for sharing your gifts with her, and here with us. Lydia is in my prayers, as are you.

  14. Dixiebelles says

    Oh my, Erica, you brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat. I am sending healing vibes to your friends darling little girl, thoughts of strength and courage and empathy for your friend, and a message of gratitude that there are friends like you in this world.

  15. Kay says

    You wrote with such courage and eloquence…..and I am at a loss for words. I will do all those things you asked of us.

  16. says

    There is strange solace in knowing that everyone has experienced their own tragedies. Life throws all sorts of obstacles in our way and the only thing to do is hold each other and get through it.
    Bill Clinton said recently on a program I watched that “Selfishness and selflessness are the same thing if you understand how the world works.” He said that because we are all connected, making ourselves feel better makes others feel better. Sandwiches and coffee are all you can offer. You can’t make the cancer go away and that is the only thing that would seem like helping. Being there for your friend and encouraging your community to do the same for theirs is the best thing.
    Love and best wishes during this hard time.

  17. Sarah Z says

    I am so sorry to hear about your friend’s little girl. I am sending love and hope for healing. A little boy (18mo) in our community has been battling cancer, and it is heart wrenching as a parent to think of little ones suffering through treatments, and all the terrifying feelings that the parents have to endure, all while being strong for their child. I know too many people battling cancer right now, and also lost a parent to cancer. Heartbreaking. But kids are amazing, resilient creatures, so there is a lot of room for hope.

  18. Marilyn T says

    Thank you for including all of us who read your blog in your circle of caring. I will pray for this little girl and her family, and pass this on to my circle of friends as well.

  19. says

    I cook when tragedy or tough times strike. I hate the feeling of helplessness and knowing that I have done something to help ease their burden, even if it barely scratches the surface, comforts me and lets my loved ones know they are in my thoughts and prayers.
    My heart aches for Lydia and her wee one and for all who know them. May the gods be kind.

  20. Lady Banksia says

    E –

    Trust that we have your back while you have their backs. Go do your good work for them, whatever that might be, however it manifests. We’re here – and we’ll be here – ‘cuz that’s how this blog rolls…

  21. says

    I’ve been in the situation of losing a precious little one, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. All my thoughts are with you and your friend right now. It’s a viciously unfair situation, and there’s no easy way past it. I hope that her treatment is effective without being too unpleasant on her!

  22. Cally Brown says

    My heart goes out to you. You and this little girl’s mother go back nearly 30 years. One of my closest friendships also goes back nearly 30 years. I met her shortly after her 2yo was diagnosed with cancer. We became close when my dad was in hospital with terminal cancer, and she was in hospital with Andrew who was having treatment. Andrew is 31years old now. Hold on to hope.

  23. Erin says

    I pray from my friend Brooke’s daughter Hannah who lives here in Victoria and over at BC Children’s Hospital, every day. I will add Lydia to these daily prayers. My heart is there with you Erica.

  24. Zoe says

    I will do all of the above.
    Thinking of you all. I can only imagine how hard it must be to try and help your friend through a time like this. Your support will mean so much to her. Now I’m off to sneak in and kiss my sleeping 2 year old xxx

  25. says

    Thinking of you and your friend. Thank you for sharing and writing so well about what you are going through. Sending healing energy via stars, sand and African sunsets to Lydia.

  26. Devon says

    Erica, Holding your friend’s little one, your friend and yourself and all of your surrounding communities in prayer for the highest possible outcome for this child. A beautiful, heartfelt post. When I go to do more winter sowing, I will plant seeds in prayer for the child.

  27. Suzan says

    When my baby was medivac’ed to our regional children’s hospital for emergency surgery 27 years ago, a whole community, mostly strangers, backed us up in ways large and small. They pitched in with child care, pet care, visits (to a hospital 4 hours away!), prayers, laundry, meals. I am forever grateful.

    That article about “how not to say the wrong thing” has turned up in the newsfeed from several different friends. I hope it goes viral, as it is so wise.

  28. Alison says

    I’m terribly sorry to hear about your friends daughter, Lydia. I will be sending prayers to this little girl, her family and friends. Your story has touched me and I hugged my kids a little tighter this morning. Thanks for sharing your story and reaching out for support.

  29. Ann says

    Your point about the trickle down, how everyone allows you to help, is really an important and thoughtful one.

  30. Tia says

    Holding Lydia and all those close to her in the light. As the mother of a 2 year old I can’t imagine the heartache of this situation. Take all the time you need from here, we will be here when you return. If there is anything the family needs that a stranger could help with, please let us know(financial support, gift cards, distractions for other children). Though I don’t personally know you or Lydia’s family, I feel a tug at my heart to help if I can. We humans need each other, even if we usually think of ourselves as fiercely independent.

  31. Melanie says

    I am so sorry to hear about this. I will be sending prayers of healing, love, and hope to your family and friends.

  32. Dave Cox says

    Thank you for sharing this and know that your friends – the whole circle from the patient outward – will be in my thoughts today and into the future. I wish all the best and most amazing of outcomes.

    The blog links about what to expect and what not say are excellent and mirror my own learnings as a long-time caregiver. The Kvetching Order Circle is amazing and I wish everyone would learn about this. It would certainly have made my life easier if I had understood this earlier.

    Dave Cox

  33. MQ says

    I love your blog, but in the grand scheme of things, we (your loyal readers) rate waaay below your friend and her needs–and your need to help her.

  34. says

    I just found your blog today, and after reading your terrifically helpful posts about garden things – I just wanted to say I’m thinking of you and your friend’s family. Having watched my father die too young in hospital, I can reiterate that all I wanted from my friends was their quiet presence and a few meals so I didn’t have to think. I’m sure your thoughtful and considered support is incredibly important to your friend. x

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