How Can I Help?

“How can I help?”

That’s question number two on everyone’s lips. I’m both encouraged and humbled by the generosity expressed by those around us ranging from the church we attended as teens, our current church, my employer, my employees, friends, family, customers and complete strangers. It’s amazing.

First they ask, “How is your daughter”?

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There is a new kitten in the barn!

A post shared by Julie Ann Jordan (@handfulofacorns) on

She is doing well, thanks. She has chemo at regular intervals, two different sets of drugs in alternation. Her response to them is becoming predictable. One set is given over 6 days and doesn’t seem to do much other than make her feel nauseated. One set is given in about 30 hours and kicks her butt for the following week. 5 days of depression and fatigue, her immune system crashes on day 7 (resulting in a hospital stay recently) then she bounces back. We try to encourage her to eat and keep eating if she can keep food down.

Then the next question: “What can we do to help?”

That’s a difficult thing to answer. Sometimes there is a little bit more to the question:

“What can we do to help? I don’t know anything about farming but I don’t mind getting dirty!”

That’s so sweet.

They don’t know what they are saying but it’s sweet anyway.

We have immediate, pressing needs. Those needs are being met. Animals have water (most of the time) and eggs are collected, washed and packed. Dinner is often provided by others, especially when Julie is away at the hospital for days at a time and I work. The kids are attended to by family and we are working to automate home schooling as much as possible.

But there are things around the farm that are not immediate. That loose metal on the barn roof or the fence that needs to be repaired or hedge trees we need to turn into firewood. Those sound like fun projects to me but…well, when I gave that response to a friend recently he looked disappointed. He wanted to do something for us but didn’t want to do that.


So I have a list of ways people can help. I just have to find a way that leverages their individual calling which means I have to put thought into my response. Which means my response may not be immediate.


We know a woman who clearly has the gift of encouragement. We get a card from her every week if not more frequently. And if I said to her, “Hey, would you come stack firewood for me?” I’m sure she would be there with bells on. But that’s really not her thing.

That’s my thing.

I stand outside and leverage raw strength and noisy, dangerous machines to bring justice to outlaw thorny things that often retaliate when attacked. I feel an enormous amount of personal satisfaction when I reduce a honey locust to ash making room in the forest for hardwoods with better lumber and no thorns. I remember well the time the honey locust log fell on my foot and pushed a thorn through my boot and foot from top to bottom. I pulled the 4″ thorn out while my wife stood horrified.

Maybe that’s not for you. Maybe you just want to cook a pan of lasagna.

Cool. Julie never cooks noodles so…heck yeah!

I am working to find answers that both meet our needs and leverage the giver’s abilities. But it’s hard. And sometimes it takes me a little while.

Our daughter is getting the care she needs. Our cows have water. Our immediate needs are met.

I still hate it when people ask how I am doing. I think I’m doing ok. I’m tired. I cry sometimes. I cry when I see other sick kids. I know all the stats on ALL and AML and various tumors. I know about treatment plans. I know definitions of terms I never even imagined when I studied biology two decades ago. I don’t know how to impact those other children on the oncology floor. I don’t know how to help.

And I really want to help. We spoke to the father of a toddler with AML this week. Last time I saw him he really needed to talk. He was driving a truck in Birmingham, AL when they called to say their boy was going to the hospital with leukemia. I don’t know how many weeks ago that was but he was still there when we were in this past week. So I asked him. 6 weeks. Solid. And I didn’t realize this was the second battle they were having with AML. We were talking right outside of the closed door of an 11-year-old girl with AML who has been in isolation for the past 3 months, down the hall of another girl with AML who was currently in isolation. Lots of decorated windows on 9. Doors open, bald toddlers in cribs all alone, parents away at work, only able to see their kids for a couple of hours each day. Teens walking the floor for exercise, obviously in pain as they walk slowly pushing their IV towers along in sock feet.

I feel helpless against their suffering.

And I think that’s my biggest frustration. How can I help?

I have no idea. The problem is too big for me to solve. I just have to focus on my daughter.

So I ask her what I can do to help.

That’s a difficult thing for her to answer too.

And so I come back to my knees. I don’t know why my daughter has cancer. I don’t know why I don’t have cancer. I don’t know anything about cancer, really. I don’t know how to prevent it. I don’t know how to cure it. I don’t know how to help it. But I know God does. So I pray.

I have succeeded in making another weepy post here. I don’t want to write weepy posts. I want to thank the many people who are reaching out to us. I want to reach out to others. We are strengthened by your love. And we wish to pour some of that back into the lives of others. It is so hard for us to look around the oncology floor. We empathize with what’s going on in their lives…sometimes too greatly. It hurts us to see them hurt. But we can’t be afraid to reach out. We can’t be so scared of pain that we fail our fellow man. It is ok to cry. It is ok to hurt. It is ok. We are not alone.

No more weepy posts for a while.

5 thoughts on “How Can I Help?

  1. You go ahead and write all the weepy posts you need to. I think it helps you to express your feelings and I know it helps me understand what you’re going through and what to pray for. It’s okay to be real and it’s healthy to not hold all those feelings in. Let go and let God. Love you guys!

  2. If only we lived closer, I would stack your wood for you. Keep writing the weeping posts, this time is like the honey locusts, right there in your way and thorny, and very painful when you get too close. But, you will get through this. The worst part is being there in the thick of cancer. Sorry my friends you have to experience this.

  3. I can cook,I can clean up after children and livestock, I can stack wood.None of these task are new to me. I do pray,sometimes the Father calls me to this for Wendy and all in the middle of the night.I think of your little one often……

  4. Yup, like matron said; I’d be there doing it and you wouldn’t even know I was coming. Crazy thing is I have just as much needs done but I’d be really happy to have the chance to make your load a little lighter, right now. And I do firewood. And roofing.

    Read this, it is good, and it is helping a friend of mine with a six-year-old girl still lying unconscious in PICU after suffering a stroke during surgery to replace a shunt in her brain. I feel your pain, and I am here with you.

    • I have written, but not published, similar thoughts. Sometimes things happen. Why does another girl in our community have leukemia? Dunno. Her parents were reflecting on life choices they had made. Did they cause this? Did the husband’s career choices cause this to happen? This kind of discussion can quickly become damaging. It doesn’t matter anyway. Your little girl needs your support right now, not your complete situational analysis. Pull your family close and weather the storm.

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