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Martha's' big adventure -
Good firends - Martha Randolph Carr

Imagine moving alone to a new city, like Chicago, and three months later, being diagnosed with cancer.

It can be hard enough to find a good hairdresser when you're new to town, but having to find a good dermatologist and oncologist on the fly is an interesting spot.

Then, there are the rides to, and from, endless doctors' appointments, and someone to take notes when inevitably your brain stops taking in anymore information. That happens shortly after they give you the variety of odds on whether you'll be around for a few more years, which depends on an outcome you won't know for a couple of weeks.

There are also the standard needs, like having food in the apartment or doing laundry or just vacuuming the dust bunnies.

Or most important of all, someone to convince you that, of course, everything will turn out alright, or hold your hand when you hit the moments that you just aren't so sure.

One of the key factors to living a healthy and long life is the number of loving family and friends someone can count on to be there, or to just hang out with them. Go to www.RealAge.com, and take note of how many of the questions are related to a sense of support.

So, I was really in a pickle when I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma at the beginning of October. And yet, I was never alone when I needed someone, and I was never without a single thing. Even better, all of this enormous effort didn't come from a single person or even a group that all knew each other.

Mimi Fron and Emily Meehan live in my building and showed up to sit by me, bring a lot of soup and get me out of the house, no matter how slowly I'm temporarily walking with a cane. Lorena Najman lent out her husband, Dave, and went to another neighbor, Patrick, when a couch needed to be moved. Harry, across the alley, went and got his truck.

Cindy Biggs not only ran errands, but when she saw the eight-inch scar, declared with a large smile, "Oh, that's not bad at all. That's really nothing." I see her point. It's a nice reminder that the biopsy was clear and my prognosis is very good. A beautiful scar. Cindy was the one who started that enormous prayer chain by calling her mother, Ruth Ann, and the prayer warriors.

Chris Rutledge brought over cold medicine after I overdid it trying to prove that I could get out just days after the surgery. Sheila and Andrew Love drove in from their new home to watch TV and talk about anything else. Carol Andrix met me once, and yet showed up with tuna salad.

There were even people who heard about my predicament and showed up with food, but didn't even remember my name. There are so many more who are still offering food and rides and asking that simple question that means so much at times.

"Is there any way I can be of help to you?"

Their presence was so constant and loving it never occurred to me to worry about being new and what that might mean to my recovery. I am without a family of my own with one great exception, my 21-year-old son, Louie. And, as so often happens when we're open to it, what happened next with Louie was a gift to me.

Throughout all of it, as my friend, Warren Webb, from Texas, who showed up as well, would say, Louie cowboy'd up.

On the hardest day of all, when I first had to come to terms with what this all might mean, Louie stayed steady and reminded me that the odds were split, fifty-fifty, which meant life was still a good possibility.

So, if you are in need of some help, make it known, to allow other people to be of service and knit together a community with a strong foundation. If you hear of someone in need, offer your help. Every hand that was offered to me has made me think I will look back and notice not only the cancer, but the love and support, and marvel at it all. More adventures to follow.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com, or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.