Chicken Soup for the Soul

You’ve seen the books, products and forums for Chicken Soup for the Soul. They have made a brand out of sharing inspirational stories of those who have made a difference in someone’s life. Well, here is one for the pot, quite literally, in fact. It’s about a bowl of chicken soup. 

Well, really it’s about the person who made the soup. A special person. She’s an oncology nurse named Olivia Pollard who works with an amazing team at the Emerald Coast Cancer Center. And one day she saved my life with a bowl of homemade chicken soup. Well, supposedly she (and nurse Linda Monastero) saved my life by taking turns hooking me up to a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs, but I like to think it’s the warm bowl of homemade chicken soup that really kicked cancer to the curb and across the road. 

Olivia has a quiet way about her. She doesn’t push on patients, but if you ask a question she will give you a straight answer. Like her chicken soup, she is simple and wholesome and good. If her soft, Southern voice doesn’t soothe, then one of her warm bear hugs is sure to. Olivia didn’t come to know some of the nuances of nurturing in nursing school. She learned them first-hand from life experience — hers. You see, she is a 23-year breast cancer survivor. So she’s “been there,” and she gets it. 

Though I can’t seem to say enough about her, she’s said volumes to me without uttering a word. Like the day my husband was called out of town on business during my fourth chemotherapy session. As a working mom, more than enduring the treatment, not being able to anticipate how my body would respond was stressful. Would I be able to get the kids ready for school? Would I be able to just get up? On this February day I was nauseous and wasn’t sure where I was going to get the strength to make dinner for my kids. 

Then, like a gift from heaven, Olivia texted me to check my front porch. And there it was. Liquid gold. My very own Chicken Soup for the Soul. With each savory spoonful of goodness, I was restored and gained the strength and confidence to do what I needed to do. It was magic. It was hope in a bowl. It was also her day off. 

But Olivia’s acts of kindness had started long before.

Three weeks into treatment Olivia prepared me that my hair would fall out. When wigs itched, I opted for a parade of hats to cover my bald head. Olivia always had something nice to say about each. After my ride forgot to pick me up from chemotherapy treatment No. 2, Olivia drove me home.

On a particularly sunny winter day, I ventured into the backyard and managed to fill a big basket with fresh Meyer lemons. I brought some to Olivia, and she gave them back in the form of a deliciously moist lemon cake with lemon icing. The irony was not lost on me. You know the whole “When life hands you lemons … ”. For me, each bite tasted like sunshine … and hope. 

That was three years ago, and Olivia’s soulful soup still has me going strong. As we mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, take a moment to say thank you to the generous, thoughtful and kind caregivers who go beyond the call of duty to help us, and those we love, with all that ails us. 

Categories: Opinion