I started chemotherapy right as my state went into full lockdown due to COVID-19. It's been hard on my family, but my friends have shown me just how valuable emotional support is.

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Julianne Reel holding child in kitchen
Credit: Courtesy Of Julianne Reel

In February of this year, I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. My first day of chemotherapy was also the first day Ohio went into full lockdown due to COVID-19. Since not much was known at the time about the virus and the spread seemed to be fast, my team of doctors recommended that my immediate family and I go into quarantine. Chemotherapy weakens the immune system and makes patients more susceptible to infection, so prevention is key.

These months have been hard on me, my daughter, and my husband.

After my diagnosis, the outpouring of support from friends and family was amazing. We couldn’t order toilet paper and the risk of going into the stores was too great, so friends would drop some off when they could find it. Even now, I receive cards with words of encouragement, handmade masks, and offers of meals.

But what stands out most are my two friends, Tracy and Jessica, who trek to my house every chemotherapy day to decorate my front yard while I’m gone. This afternoon, I came home to mermaid tails sticking up among the pansies in my flower beds. Last week, there were these wonderful little butterflies. I am blessed to have these ladies lift my spirits.

In the midst of tending to physical needs, we sometimes overlook the emotional ones. During this time of upheaval when we are all on edge due to lockdowns, protests, and the new normal, we need acts of emotional kindness. We need to build each other up, not tear each other down.

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's December 2020 issue as “The Act of Kindness That Touched Our Families: I had a support team in my front yard.” Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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