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Balm for the soul~ Writing and Shopping

At the beginning of David’s cancer treatment I didn’t have it in me to enjoy any couponing or good-deal shopping. There was no time for scouting deals, no joy in bringing home bags of free stuff. Instead, I immersed myself in misery and caregiving. I wallowed in it, spending every single minute of every single day caring for my husband and worrying about him.  I didn’t realize how much couponing relaxed me until I finally had a chance to “do my thing” after one of his many appointments.

I hadn’t had much time to spend with my hobby of couponing since David’s diagnosis. In August I spent a great deal of time poring over the latest Walgreen’s ad, organizing my coupons for a huge shopping spree. That week, after David’s treatment, I stopped at Walgreen’s and loaded up my cart with the sanitary napkins, toothbrushes and deodorant that would be practically free after coupons and rebates. When the cashier handed me the long receipt I tucked it into my purse, along with the rebate booklet that would give me $40 in refunds. It felt good to be doing something as ordinary and familiar as couponing and refunding again.

When I got home I headed to my desk to prepare the rebate form before I forgot about it. I couldn’t locate the receipt anywhere. I frantically searched my purse, the floor, and then the entire van for the receipt, my heart sinking. I called the toll-free number in the rebate booklet and was told there wasn’t much I could do. Then I called the Walgreen store and talked to the male manager who, after listening to my spiel that did indeed include a saga of my husband’s cancer, said he would personally search the front register garbage can for my stray receipt. I hung up then, but knew, deep down, that receipt wasn’t in a garbage can somewhere. More likely it had blown away in the parking lot because I certainly remembered sticking it in my purse before I left the store. I called the store again later and this time talked to a female manager. I burst into tears as I related my story.  Forty dollars meant a lot to our family prior to David’s cancer, it meant even more now. I found myself telling this woman the whole sorry saga of our financial situation and David’s cancer treatment. The woman quietly listened to my babbling lament and in a very comforting soft voice, calmed me down.

“Tell me approximately what time you were here and what you bought. I can go into our office and get a printout of your receipt that you can send in with the rebate form.”

Since we’d stopped after David’s radiation treatment, I could give her a fairly accurate time of checkout and I could also tell her to look for a transaction that had as many coupons as items. She called me back a short time later, triumphantly announcing she’d found the transaction and would mail me the office copy. Whether my situation made her go above and beyond or she was always so accommodating, I don’t know, but when that $40 arrived in the mail a month later, I thought of her again and was reminded of how kind strangers can be. (-from my unpublished cancer memoir)

It sounds silly, but at that time, going on a coupon-spree helped give my life some sense of normalcy amidst the chaos and emotional upheaval cancer brings to a family.

Besides deal-shopping, I can always find refuge in writing.  I wrote in a journal every single morning while David was in the hospital for eleven days, recovering from an invasive surgery that removed his cancer. I wrote every Wednesday while I sat with him during chemotherapy sessions. I couldn’t stop writing. David’s 2006 bout with cancer jump-started my writing. I have been writing daily ever since.

So when someone close to me was diagnosed with cancer recently, I wanted to write about it. The first night after the diagnosis, I couldn’t.  I couldn’t write a word because that would make it real, and I wasn’t ready to face the reality.  Then I couldn’t write about it because this person did not want me to. I did not have their permission to mine their emotional battlefield in public, and I still don’t. My natural inclination was to immediately sit down in front of the computer and pour out my heartache in the only way I knew~ by writing.

Instead, of course, I shopped.

Three separate coupon-shopping trips in nine days was excessive, even for me.

Oh, I did write.  I wrote a letter to this person.  I wrote another.  I wrote to my friend Mary.  I wrote in my neglected journal.  I posted an old article and a poem on my blog and babbled about coupons. I worked on my book and collected fun images like this one, to illustrate the proposal:

Someday, when I am free to, I will write more about this close friend who is beginning their own journey through cancer.

For now, there is shopping to do.

Author:

Author, public speaker, and workshop presenter for community colleges, libraries, women's groups and for grief support groups, Hospice and retreats. Reporter for the Manchester Press newspaper and popular public speaker and workshop presenter on the topics of writing and finding hope in grief. "Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, and the Stories Behind America's Extreme Obsession" was published by Familius Publishing in 2014. "Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage" and "Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace" were released by Familius in 2014. "Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink," co-written with Mary Jedlicka Humston of Iowa City, was published in September 2015.

One thought on “Balm for the soul~ Writing and Shopping

  1. I know exactly what you mean. When my mom had open heart surgery, I could have cared less if I ever used a coupon again. I was the only one taking care of her. When mom felt better again, I went to the grocery store. I would just throw things into the cart whether we needed them or not. When mom was totally better, I finally did some coupon shopping. I felt better as well. Some people use drugs, etc. to get a high and take their minds off of things, I just coupon shop. I coupon shop by myself to make myself feel better. The less I spend the better I feel. You like to write, I like to read. When there is something in my life that is uncertain, I like to read comforting books. I like the Stories for the Heart series, and anything by Debbie Macomber. Her books are a “cozy” read for me. Anything that can take your mind away for awhile and calm you in difficult times is a blessing.

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