Opening the door

Jan 11

I’m in the chemo chair today, and I’m actually being a little anti-social (rare for me in the infusion suite), because I have so much to catch up on.  Just now I renewed  my website (the hosting and domain registration were set to expire/disappear forever approximately 25 hours from now.  I learned what “hosting” and “domain registration” mean a few days ago.)  I’m telling you I am barely on the internet at all; three years ago when I set it up (with lots of help from a stranger friend) I’d hoped to learn more, but it hasn’t been my priority.  When I sat down with my friend for help with this, my friend looked at my computer’s desktop and began twitching at the disarray.  That’s sort of representative of how I feel like I’m dealing with the important-but-not-energizing stuff in life.  I’m getting it done, but barely.  There’s lots of disarray.

Some of you have said, “What can I do?”  It’s a hard question for me to answer.

Last week while I took Greta to gymnastics, a friend/neighbor came over and took down all of my outdoor Christmas decor.  She had messaged me a few days prior to tell me it was happening and so I could leave my storage bin(s) in the garage so it was ready for her.  When I got home, it was all done; it was even put away in the correct spot in the basement storage room.  It was so refreshing to have a job that would have taken Brad and/or I hours finished.  Thank you for such a practical and selfless gift.

Because of my past experience with various chemotherapies, and the knowledge I’ve gained about the value of my village, I’m trying to be a better help-ee by creating routines and systems in my house that can be aided by another.  If you were to do something for me this week, these are the kind of minutae tasks that are going to be back-burnered for me, but it would feel good for someone to get it done.  (Brad is super-willing and able to do these things, but it’s not life-giving for him to do it either.  He can do it, but I don’t want him to do it.  Does that make sense?  He’s very much a “we’ve got this” kinda guy, so he might even be discombobulated that I’m putting this out there (sorry honey)).

  • Put away the last of the Christmas stuff into the bins that are collected on the table in the basement.  (Tuesday at the earliest).
  • Greta’s laundry basket is full.  Wash it, dry it, and put the clean clothes away in her closet.  (I’ve made a change in how I am doing laundry thanks to the tip of a friend with 6 kids.  Instead of sorting all our laundry into darks, lights, etc., each kid has their own dirty laundry basket in their room.  When it’s full, it gets washed/dried–all together; kids clothes don’t bleed color–, and folded and put away for little kids, or deposited in their room for big kids.)
  • I have a list of <15 items I need from the grocery store.  If you’re going and want to drop them on my back porch, message me.  I’ll drop you a check to pay you back.
  • Maren’s laundry basket will be ready for washing Wednesday-ish.

Yesterday at church, my friend said, “I have little-to-no-time, but I want to help.  I am going to Costco before next weekend.  What would your family eat from Costco that I can bring to church next Sunday so you can take it home and have a meal?”  I thought this was a great example of a specific, strategic offer of help.

  • If you want to help but don’t know what to do, ask her best friends what she needs.  Her spouse, parents, and siblings are likely as starstruck as she is.
  • If you want to help, figure out how you want to help.  What’s your gifting?  Suggest one to three ideas and see if any of them resonate with the person.
  • Be specific with your capacity and what you can do.  Instead of “What do you need?”  Say:
    • “I have two hours free in the afternoon and I’d like to help you.  I”ll have my baby with me, but I can do whatever you can think of that would be helpful during that window.”
    • “I cook.  What will you eat?”  Or “I cook these three things really well, do any of them sound good?”
    • “I don’t cook, but I buy gift cards well.  Where do you want to go?”
    • “I have thirty minutes.  Can I come over and do whatever needs to be done?”  (I would have you sweep my kitchen floor, do my dishes, unload my dishwasher, clean/put away the toys in the basement, or clean/put away my kids’ room.)

I still have bags to unpack from Christmas and beyond, we switched the girls’ beds last night (Greta got the bunkbeds, Maren has the double bed) so the upstairs looks like a bomb went off, and unwritten thank you notes are buried under a pile of stuff on my desk.  I’ll get some stuff done tonight by capitalizing on my steroid high, but I don’t know yet how I’ll feel over the coming weeks.  Fingers crossed that my healthy cells tolerate this chemo well!

Thanks for the grace and understanding if I haven’t communicated with you.  Keep trying and/or thanks for the patience; I’m not intentionally ignoring you!


  1. I’m proud of you for putting this out there. I know it’s hard, but the village is blessed when we are allowed to pitch in. God’s design in the Body of Christ is awe-inspiring!

  2. Newbyfriend /

    Great helpful advice, the ” let me know if you need anything” just doesn’t cut it for either party. I will remember these nuggets.

  3. Kathi Roth /

    Hi Jen. I have three hours Wednesday and at least a good solid five hours Thursday. You can email text or call me with the list you want done and I’ll be there. Send your address and leave a note on the table of chores to do if you don’t feel like talking. 575-3766 home; 549-9527 cell and email is Cleaning sorting cooking whatever you want done.

    Kathi Roth

  4. Jen,
    I’ve been reading your blog for years but have never commented before. I finished chemo last June after 27 months of it. Nothing was working until the 5th regimen. Because my cancer is so rare, my local doctor had only seen 3 other patients with it in his whole career. He sent me to Mayo for a 2nd opinion. After 4 treatments failed to work on me, I got down to 83 pounds and was losing hope. I decided to go see another top specialist at Dana-Farber, and his recommendation is what ended up working. My disease is called Waldenstroms Macroglobulinemia, a rare blood cancer, non-Hodgkins.

    I’ve always admired your positive attitude, and even made a note on our bulletin board that says Do Today Well. I’ve marveled at your ability, at least online, to sound so confident and full of joy, despite your circumstance. I often felt like I failed at this, especially when I was in treatment. I worried constantly, was depressed, and felt downright terrified. I got panic attacks, had to see a therapist, and cried much of the time. I don’t have your strong sense of faith, so maybe that was part of it, but I felt like I didn’t Do Cancer Well, which made me feel even worse about myself. Of course I now realize that everyone handles cancer differently, but your posts have helped calm me down at times, and I’ve been pulling for you.

    I don’t live near you, but I’d love to do something to help you. We we quite fortunate with help–my in laws hired a cleaning lady for me, and another friend set up a website called, which allows anyone you know to sign up to bring you a meal on the days you want. It shows what they are bringing, so you don’t get 200 lasagnes! I think we got about 90 meals during my worst 7 months. I’m not sure how we would’ve managed without them. Like you, I didn’t want my husband doing everything, because he was already doing so much (my kids were 10/13 at the time, so at least they were mostly independent). People drove my kids everywhere, took them on vacation, to ca,p, and to sports practices– I was too weak to drive for 7 months. Anyways, I just thought I’d mention that website, because once set up (have a friend do it), it really simplifies things.

    For those that live far from you, do you have suggestions on how we can help? Some ideas I have:

    Giftcards for restaurants you like so you can just go as a family when you don’t want to cook
    Contributions for a cleaning lady
    Contributions or gift cards for something fun you could do with your girls
    New hats?
    I think Take Them A Meal allows people who live far away to order meals online and somehow they are delivered.

    I really hope this new chemo is the one that will work its magic and that the side effects are minimal.

    A subscription to Audible so you can listen to books during chemo and still do other stuff.

    • Lisa, I hope you know that just in surviving cancer and treatment, you did it well. I do feel like my faith and God have been game-changers for me, and I do hope that you can give yourself the grace that we both know you so deserve. One of the most powerful lessons I learned was to love myself and forgive myself first before I try to love or forgive anyone else. I’m bamboozled that you want to do something for me. Let me think about far-away helpers and collaborate with our help coordinators (who will be sending out a care calendar for meals and other helps); you are right about the helpers: so vital!

  5. Lisa Marker-Robbins /

    Jen – you are just so wise, smart and doing this so well with grace and dignity. And of course, not surprised by that in the least. Praying big prayers, for big miracles for you, Brad and your kiddos.

  6. Lisa Smith /

    What Mary said. Also, I just started using the Cash App to pay rent and some other bills I’m sharing with housemates. So. Much. More. Convenient. Than. Owing. Someone. A. Check. Just FYI 🙂

  7. Cindy Jones /

    Hi Jen, you don’t really know me. I go to Northstar and introduced myself to you a couple months back. I have been reading your blog for awhile now and would love to help you out. I love children and if you need me to occupy yours while you take a rest or run errands I would love that. I watched Greta when she was younger a few times in the NorthStar Nursery. What a cutie!!!

    • Hi Cindy,
      Thanks for introducing yourself and I hope we can get to know each other better. 🙂 Email me if you haven’t heard about the women’s gathering next Monday night from church and I’ll give you the details. As far as the girls go, we have the wagons circled pretty tight; we are trying to grow their circle of caregivers deeper rather than wider. I hope you understand! 🙂

  8. Christin /

    This is the most helpful blog you’ve ever posted. I want to add lots of disclaimers to that – but you get what I’m saying :). It took a whole different brand of courage to write this, and I’m thankful you summoned that courage.

    • Thanks for affirming this post; it is the first one in a while where I had to take a deep breath to send it because it is vulnerable in a different way. I’m learning.

  9. Are Whole Foods gift cards a help to you?–can be used to buy a ready-made dinner. I, too, want to help and find it’s difficult to know what is the best way from across the miles. I continue to hold you and your family in prayer.

    And I hope you got that pedicure.

  10. Jennifer /

    I’ve been reading your lovely blog for quite some time now and have been amazed by your strength! I’m an ovarian cancer survivor and have gained strength for my own fight from you. You are amazing. I pray for you daily.

    Thinking of your quote/art project: For a school fundraiser, my son took white art canvases (diff. sizes), painted them (or not), cut out letters to form a quote using my Cricut, and mod-podged them onto the canvas. People loved them and bought tons of them at the school fundraising sale. I’ll try to insert a picture of them if I can figure it out. But if it sounds interesting to you, I’d love to send you our leftover canvases and I’m happy to cut out whatever quote/letters you like on my machine if you don’t have access to one. I know you have tons of items on your to-do list, so no worries about getting back to me! 🙂 Like many others, I’d love to contribute in any way I can. Sending hugs and prayers to you and your family.

    • This sounds awesome and manageable. I love how you explained it. Let me think about which words to choose. Could I trouble you to email me in a week or so after I’ve had time to think about it?

  11. Jessica /

    I stopped sorting the grown up clothes a long time ago too. Unless it’s a bright red shirt, it all goes together (with the exception of the delicate stuff – I tend to save a load for that, which is usually my stuff). Please do keep us posted on how far away stranger friends could be helpful. You have so many across the country/world thinking of us. We had some events happen in our life which have caused me endless worry about the outlook for my children’s health. Your words always remind me that my worry will not change the outcome. I must put out into the world the outcome I hope to have. I will do the same for you.

    • I love what you say here about worry. So true! I know I will regret moments I spend worrying. I am brainstorming on how to open the door wider to my stranger friends and out-of-towners. I feel the love already, so it seems bamboozling that you all want more! Stay tuned and check back with our help coordinators over the coming weeks/months.

  12. Jen Roesch /

    Jen – Thank you for opening yourself up and identifying areas of need. Because of your vulnerability, we are blessed in serving you too! This former Northstar-er would like to find a gift card for a favorite restaurant. We left the area years ago but I would love to send you a little something. Thanks!

    • Jen–This is so nice! Thank you for the sweet thought. Family favorites are Dewey’s Pizza, local restaurants with hibachi grills (dinner and a show–ha!), and pretty much anyplace where we can get something fresh/green when we’re not up for cooking for ourselves.

  13. Hey sweet friend. Check the fridge on Sunday- it will be there this time. Love to you.