ALLIDAH POOLE HICKS sees herself as “just a friend and a neighbor.” Having gone through a
tough stretch herself, she believes that when bad times hit the people we know, we have an opportunity to walk alongside and take away some of the aloneness. “While we can’t really fix anything or take away the pain, it’s that moment we stop to listen, lend a little help, or even just a bit of laughter that can be lifesaving.” A registered nurse and staff development professional, she works at National Jewish Health in Denver. She has two grown children and lives just west of Denver with her husband and their two rescued dogs.
BONNIE KNUTI says she has “been there.” She supported her teenage son through the years of his battle with cancer, and then grieved terribly for him when he lost that fight. She’s so grateful for the many folks who supported her family through some very tough years. She passionately believes that people want to do what they can to help, but knows they sometimes get stuck. She hopes that this book will be a support and guide for friends who would like to do something, but don’t know where to begin. Retired after many wonderful years of teaching English, she lives with her husband in the Colorado foothills.
Here’s Allidah’s Story:
Much of my story cannot be told. Like so many, I protect a family member who suffers from a “sensitive illness.” Our family knows what it is like to struggle alone with a disease that is neither well understood nor fully treatable. The aloneness my husband and I felt when the disease was raging and our loved one was hospitalized was unbearable. But, in the midst of this sorrow, our friend Tom came to the door with a pizza, a listening ear, and a smile, and that moment made all the difference.
Several years later, an almost endless streak of tragedies hit people very close to our family. Peter, Bonnie’s son, was diagnosed with cancer at age eleven and then struggled to survive for five years.
A woman speeding down the highway slammed her car into two others. In an instant, she destroyed two families. In one car were our closest friends. Kirsten was killed instantly and her husband, Eric, and their son, Nick, were severely injured. The other family had a similar fate, leaving a widow to pick up the pieces.
Sarah, a 12 year old from the girls’ club I volunteer with, was hit by a car after school and landed in the intensive care unit. And then, my 41-year-old friend, Holly, had a damaging heart attack and bypass surgery.
Each time the phone rang, bringing devastating news, I struggled to do and say the right things. Sometimes I knew I made a difference; sometimes my gestures were clumsy; other times, I just didn’t do enough, or I found I did too much. But, in the end, I learned that it’s most important to just be there.
It’s my hope that the stories and ideas shared here will be a jumping off place. Life will inevitably come tumbling down, but as we look for ways to reach out to each other, the possibilities for making a difference can be as varied as those who peek between the covers of this book.
Here’s Bonnie’s Story:
My life took a dramatic turn for the worse on September 29, 1993, when my son, Peter, was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare and very aggressive form of bone cancer. To say that my peaceful world was turned upside down is a gross understatement. For the next year, my husband Lee, my daughter Kristi, and I struggled as Peter underwent chemotherapy and several surgeries. In an effort to save his leg, Peter continued to endure repeated surgeries over a four-year period. It is no small exaggeration to say that all of us went through five years of unbelievable agony.
Just when we thought we were turning a corner, in the fall of 1997, Peter was diagnosed with AML leukemia, most likely a result of the initial chemotherapy. Although he put up a gallant effort, he did not survive the bone marrow transplant needed to cure the leukemia. Peter died on April 8, 1998, at the age of 16.
Peter’s death just wrenched my soul. I guess it cracked my guard, allowing love and compassion to pour in. Up until that first shocking diagnosis, I would help others out of concern or obligation, but I really didn’t fully understand how much people could make a difference to shattered lives.
During this ordeal, the outpouring of love from family, neighbors, friends, and colleagues was wonderful and certainly helped us navigate the shoals of some very rough seas. Given how busy everyone’s life is in this fastpaced world, I was surprised by so much help.
When a friend, an acquaintance, or even someone we’ve never met struggles through the hazy nightmare of a jolting crisis, or the exhausting reality of enduring with an illness, I think most of us want to do something to help. When we ease the struggle and pain just a bit by jumping in to do what needs to be done to “keep the home fires burning,” or when we support with genuine, loving words, I believe that we truly do make a difference.