Cookies For My Dying Neighbor

My neighbor, Larry, just died of stage 4 aggressive cancer. It ate him up in just a handful of months. Larry was a tenant in a home that I owned, just two doors away. Then, Larry became a neighbor. He really became a friend and someone that I could talk to about business, trends, family, and overall spiritual growth.

Last Sunday, Oct. 3, was the last time we communicated. I texted him, “Hey there. You feeling ok? I have some cookies for ya…from some friends.” He responded, “I’ve got nurses here. Not feeling great. I’ll have to take a rain check.”

On Wednesday evening, Sept 29, I dropped off some Whole Foods chocolate chip cookies. He sent me back a text with the prayer hands.

On Monday evening, Sept. 27, I texted him, “Do you need anything? smooth foods? Gatorade?” He responded, “You’re awesome. No ma’am. Thank you.”

On Saturday evening, Sept 25, texted him, “How ya feeling? How is Luke (his youngest son) doing?” Larry responded, “Terrible.” “Luke is doing awesome. Thank you for checking in.”

On Sunday, Sept 19, we had some donuts and peanut butter cookies left over from our tailgate. I asked him if he wanted any, he said, “No thank you. I appreciate it!”

In mid September, Larry had his gas utility turned off. Something happened, bills were slipping past due, and not being paid. We did get him approved thru rental assistance to receive $1,800 for his October rent; thank goodness, in hindsight, that was helpful and will be helpful giving his family some time to go thru his things here in October. As we filled out all the paperwork for that rental assistance, he said, “And I’m a cheap bastard…I can’t help myself, I like free stuff…Don’t judge.”

On Sept 10, Larry paid his rent in cash. And while backing out of the drive, he sideswapped my mailbox. He was embarrassed, and said he would fix it. I knew he couldn’t and wouldn’t, so I just straightened it up, no problem. It was at this point, one month before he died, that Larry just wasn’t Larry anymore. He was falling behind. He was trying, but struggling. But I just kept offering him cookies. To help soothe whatever pain he was in.

On Sept. 9 he texted me…”I have cash…I had cash yesterday & today. I always have cash. That isn’t ever a problem. I’ll skin ya in the a.m. (pay you) Big Mamma…I’m confused easy these days-if it isn’t about work or hustlin’…I didn’t pay my water bill for three months, unbeknownst to me.”

While we were in northern Michigan for Labor Day weekend, I texted Larry, “Can I bring you something specific?” He responded: “Blueberries Jam. Please!! Any kind of jam! PB & J’s all day for me!” Think about that for a minute. You’re 46 years old, struggling with cancer, and you’re excited about PB&J’s. So when we arrived from our Michigan road trip, I took over his blueberry jam, and also gave him a blueberry cream cheese danish. He responded with a text, “Ohhhh my gooooodness!! Dude…Since having cancer, I’ve been obsessed with food, and I had a great day today, I made some good money, today was an entire blessing. But, it pales in comparison to this damn danish…You are so kind to me and I appreciate you guys so much. Thank you. Thank you.” And then he went on…”I’ve been kicked in the head by everybody that supposedly loved me…dealing with this all alone, ain’t easy…I’ve had so many people close to me do me dirty since I’ve been sick. It would absolutely blow your mind. I’ve got just a handful of people, who are new to me, within the last five or six years – who have been more precious than people that I’ve known for years… Thank you.”

Homemade punkin pie for Larry before Labor Day? He loved it, and I was on a smooth food diet too, and he didn’t even know that nor why. His son just started at UIndy, and it was their first football game in Chicago. Larry didn’t go, because Luke didn’t dress for the game.

Cookies again on Sunday, August 29, and then on August 31. Larry visited a buddy at IU Health, who had cancer, convincing him to take his pain meds and do chemotherapy. Then he came over, I made him an old fashion drink, and we sat on my back patio from 745pm til 900pm, talking about going in to business together, with the explosive opportunity in electric vehicle charging stations. He was convinced there was opportunity in one-EV charging station, that could have double spot charging. He texted me, after our convo, “You, Ms. Wilfong! Are gonna be a big deal!! YOU!!”

On Saturday, Aug. 28, Larry couldn’t get off the couch, not feeling well. He wanted to drive my new Tesla, that I picked up on Friday, August 27. He had an idea for me, not him, but for me.

Cookies again on Aug. 19, as Larry just couldn’t make it to my birthday party on Aug. 21. As he texted, “…I can’t be around people, a hamster fart would literally kill me right now…I have no immune system, no white blood cells…”

Even on August 4, cookies were the answer. I texted Larry that I’d swap him cookies for rent. He responded, “NO!! Just give me the damn cookies!!”

And more cookies on July 31. Sugar cookies this time. And July 27, he sent me a video. “You wouldn’t understand completely the dialogue but this is the video I just sent my sons-my soldiers…Thank you very much I appreciate you checking on me. Refuse to die, I need to live.”

On July 22, just a few days after I had a small bowel attack on July 19, I made punkin pies. Gave one to Larry, and also made another batch of cookies for him. On Monday, July 12, dropped off more cookies, and some cherries. As he explained, he was getting sick and tired of those shakes and pudding.

On July 7, I finally told Larry, a colon cancer patient, that I didn’t have a colon (lost it in 2000). He texted back, “Ohh wow!! I didn’t know that. You’re my inspiration!”

On July 4, Larry shared results of 2nd and 3rd opinions, “it’s advanced stage for colon cancer. That has metastasized pretty much everywhere, encompassing all major organs, mid to lower GI regions. However, my heart, my lungs, my brain, and central nervous system are intact and strong.” I was sending him my daily devotionals in early July and he loved it, was grateful and kept reinforcing, “you are a blessing to me daily.”

On June 29, Larry shared with me his prognosis. “You’re my dear friend, whether you like it or not. So, I feel completely comfortable telling you this…hold onto your hat because it’s a doozy. And I’m at complete peace with the information I’m going to disclose to you. The fight has not even begun!! So here is the prognosis: I have incurable squamous cell carncinoa stage 4. It is a very fluid, active and rapidly spreading cander. It is considered untreatable, because the advanced stage 4…the care will be Palliative Care.”

In mid-May, I saw neighbor Larry, who had lost a lot of weight. Not having any idea what was going on, I gave him a compliment and then picked him up a couple pair on new shorts, that would fit him a bit better. He said on May 31, “they fit excellently. Thank you!”

That’s all I knew to do: offer him cookies, comfort foods like donuts, punkin pies, and a blueberry danish. I didn’t know anything else to do. Just offer him cookies. And nearly every time, over the course of July, August, and September, he gobbled them up with gratitude.

What are you doing with those who may be dying with cancer? I sure don’t have the answers, but I do know that Larry loved those cookies. Feed ’em cookies 🙂 And regularly let them know you are thinking of them. Check in on them.

Stressed? Find Out How To Stay Calm During The Storms

Recently my parents called me and I answered the phone to the scary comment, “there’s been an accident.” They had been in a farm accident!Mom broke her arm, has two bum knees and a busted lip. Dad’s ankle was horribly bruised after a truck loaded with hay ran over it. Thank goodness for the neighbor who called 9-1-1 and got help to them quickly. I share this story about my parents’ accident as an example of how one person who was stressed and didn’t take time to communicate, ended up causing both of them to be injured.

Many of my clients say, “I am so stressed…” Stress comes in lots of forms. Some stress is good and helps us perform better—like meeting a deadline on time. Other types of stress have the opposite effect on us and we perform poorly. When clients bring up stress, questions I typically ask include: What are you doing to reduce the stress? How will you do that? Who will you communicate to? This last question is critical to successfully reducing stress. I’m finding a common pattern among clients when they admit they are stressed. If the client identifies a game plan and communicates the plan with a trusted person, the client typically a) implements the changes to help reduce the stress, and b) has a powerful conversation that helps both people.

When you are stressed, what gets in your way of stopping and communicating to someone you trust? Maybe it’s because you think those closest to you understand what you are thinking and know you better than anyone else. Maybe it’s because you think someone else has it worse than you do, so you aren’t willing to share your concerns about what is stressful. Whatever the reasons, I want to share a few tips to help you when you are stressed.

Stressed? Feel and Stop. If you are feeling stressed, stop and become aware. A good practice is to write or journal what is causing the stress. Where is it coming from? Have you ever experienced this cause of stress before? If so, what makes it different this time? How do you think it can it be reduced? For example, one of my clients was very stressed about her work and the amount of time she was spending at work well into the evenings. After journaling for just one week, she quickly noticed that her stress was actually coming from her children. Because she stopped and journaled, she was able to notice what was causing the stress and increased her one-on-one time with her kids.

Stressed? Share with care. When you do feel stress, it’s a good step to not only stop, but also think about who you might talk to that deeply listens and cares. It amazes me that when I ask clients who they might share their stress with, most of my clients say, “I hadn’t really thought about that.” Together with the client, we put together a plan that helps identify who he/she wants to share with and when; what he/she wants to share; and how he/she might put the plan into action. In fact, I’ve helped my clients practice and dry run these conversations/plans. This practice provides a lot of confidence to the client.

Stressed? Communicate calmly. When stress strikes, some cultures and individuals actually reinforce cocooning and isolation to mask the situation. What I’ve found with clients that “Feel and Stop, Share with care,” and “Communicate calmly,” is that the conversation is not just needed by the client but also by the other person and is helpful to more than both of them, and typically is replicated because it was successful, thoughtful, and rational. One client realized that her stress was impacting the entire family. However by opening communication with her husband, they established a plan and helped one another—and their kids.

Could my parents have avoided their horrific farm accident? Yes. My father was stressed about getting ready for a two-day trip and needed to feed 14 hungry horses on the coldest day of winter. Instead of feeling the stress, stopping, and figuring out a plan to feed the horses before entering their pasture, he proceeded quickly and asked my mother to help him drive a truck and keep the horses from coming through the gate. Because he didn’t share, nor communicate a well understood game plan, a drastic error was made when the horses moved toward the truck. My mother ran over my father’s leg while turning the truck to miss a horse. As she got out of the truck to run to his aid, she fell and broke her arm. As with most clients, the time it would have taken my father to Feel and Stop, Share with Care, and Communicate Calmly would have taken a few minutes. Instead, both of my parents will be recovering from their injuries for weeks.

The next time you are stressed, how will you communicate to help ensure you have positive results instead of stressful consequences?