Arona Martin still remembers the day her best friend was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, and that experience has driven her to help other women who are battling the illness.
“She called me from the hospital and said come over here I think I have cancer,” Martin said of her best friend Jessica.
Just 31 years old, Jessica was ultimately diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
“I was devastated, just feeling so helpless and not really knowing what to do,” Martin said.
She used her art background to create a journal for Jessica to take with her to her cancer treatments, and other women in the waiting room noticed.
“When other woman would ask her where she got it, I wanted her to always have one in her bag,” said Martin, who kept making and sending a few journals with Jessica to each treatment.
After Jessica passed away, Arona started the company, “Because Love,” in her friend's memory. She sells the velvet-covered journals that include blingy stickers, coloring pages and prompts to help your loved ones go through all the emotions cancer brings.
“People forget that it’s a physical diagnosis and it’s a physical disease, but it comes with all this wide range of emotions,” Martin explained.
It’s something Michelle Mekky knows firsthand. She was diagnosed five years ago with ovarian cancer, which led to major surgery and her hospital room was inundated with flowers.
“It felt great because those seven days in the hospital, those were pretty much the worst days of my life,” Mekky said about the thoughtful gifts.
Her neighbors also set up a meal train to feed her family.
“I had about six weeks of dinners and desserts,” Mekky said. “My kids loved that part.”
Both women touched by cancer offer this advice: Be proactive and keep the check-ins coming.
“I set an alarm on my phone that was like twice a week, so I knew to just send a text that just said “I’m thinking about you,” Martin recommends.
“What also really struck me were handwritten notes and cards,” Mekky added.
That’s why Martin also designed lap blankets that come with tags to write supportive messages that she also sells on her website www.itsbecauselove.com.
“Similar to signing a cast if someone breaks their arm, you write little messages on it. It’s just attached to a blanket, so they can have it with them,” Martin said.