Getting Carded

By Mary Jedlicka Humston © 2012
            You don’t know her all that well. Sure, you sit near each other on the bleachers when your daughters play junior varsity basketball, but you wouldn’t describe her as a close friend. You hear she’s dealing with ovarian cancer and is homebound, recuperating from surgery and treatment.
            There’s the family a couple streets over. You know them casually, see them out for walks and occasionally talk about the weather and their dogs. You read in the newspaper that their teenaged son, the one with the red hair and big smile, was recently killed in a car accident.
            Situations like these make you feel helpless and
unsure what to do. If they were closer friends or family, a casserole would already be delivered as would offers to babysit children or shovel snow from the driveway. Those circumstances illicit prompt, easy responses, but what do you do for people you don’t know as well? Would offers of help appear intrusive?
            There is one very simple solution: send a greeting card. While that may still seem too personal, let me assure you, a card will be welcomed regardless of how well you know the person.
            Four years ago at Christmas I was diagnosed with stage three thyroid cancer. I had my first surgery that January and a second one several days later. For the next four weeks I was on a very specific low-iodine diet (no eggs, dairy, sodium, certain red-dye products, seafood or chocolate, just to name some of the many foods I couldn’t eat).
            When my iodine levels reached the right mark, I had a radioactive iodine treatment. Yes, you read that correctly. Radioactive. I was in isolation for three days. Fortunately, I could be home, but there were still many restrictions. My clothes, towels and bedding had to be washed separately. My husband had to be an arm’s length away and sleep in another room. Showers were necessary several times a day. I had to use paper products for meals which then had to be disposed of in a very specific manner several weeks later.
            Immediately after that, radiation treatments began. There were twenty-five in all. This occurred during the middle of the winter flu and cold season, so I didn’t go out much. I was usually too tired anyway.
            During that three to four month period, countless people showered me with generous and creative offers of help, but the consistent day-to-day boost I received was when the mail arrived. Phone calls and visits might tire me, but reading cards never did. After awakening from my afternoon nap, I always looked forward to the mail.
            I treasured the cards whether the sender knew me well or not. In fact, some of those touched me the most since they were welcome surprises. Each card reminded me I was cared about. Their good wishes, prayers and messages were encouraging and healing. Four years later, I still have every card. Yes, every single card.
            So, if you wonder whether sending a card is appropriate or not, my advice is to go ahead and do it. Send one to the woman a few pews ahead of you in church whose husband died unexpectedly and to the co-worker from a different department who was recently laid off .
            All you have to do is write thinking of you or just sign your name. Nothing more. Yet, that simple act could very well be the day-brightener someone needs.
            Getting carded during an illness, trauma or tragedy helps more than you can imagine. Trust me, I know.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Jedlicka Humston has over 100 publications in newspapers, magazines, books and websites that include Liguorian, Coping with Cancer, Today’s Caregiver Magazine, Cappers, Julien’s Journal, TEA: A Magazine, Farm and Ranch Living, Our Iowa and a cover story for TOPS News. She is a member of the National League of American Pen Women, Besides writing, she loves reading, yoga, drinking tea, walking, and being with friends and family. To contact Mary, email

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