Lump. Crap. Biopsy. OH NO. Cancer. EFF!
I do NOT have time for this. I am raising small children, working, being a (good?) wife, and living life. I need to organize, schedule, clean, cook, drive, manage, pay bills, and do all the things every. single. day. I don’t have time for cancer!
You know what?
Cancer doesn’t care
You know what else? The world also keeps on turning. Ouch right? For the person with cancer it feels like a deserted island sometimes. People stare (thanks to being baldy – those hats don’t do a good job of hiding anything!), conversations stop, and people get awkward.
No one really knows how to have cancer. There is no right or wrong way to deal with it. Ideally we all are happy and chipper and skipping along with the rainbows and butterflies that are included with appointments, treatments and scans… Sure thing right?
For us with cancer I think one of the biggest things I can say is, be selfish. A little or a lot. Whatever you need. Being selfish for me looks like setting boundaries. Don’t want to do an activity or go somewhere? Don’t. Feel like sitting and watching some Netflix? Do it! Want to just sit and snuggle with your kids and read a book? YES! Feel like you need to clean your whole house? Go nuts!
Consider this permission to do what you need to do in order to get through the roller coaster of emotions. Understand that sometimes we think our emotional roller coaster has hit some level ground just to have something else sweep us up or drop us down. This brings me to the next part about being selfish, and this is for the friends and family and coworkers…
Don’t make us help you through it too…
Phew! Those of you that get this, really get it. For those that don’t lets break it down a little. Having cancer is a diagnosis, not a definition of who we are. It’s a part – a small part – of the day to day on goings of life. Does it sometimes feel all consuming? Sure. Especially at the beginning. Every once in a while do we just want to be a puddle in bed? Absolutely. This whole process is something that we aren’t good at – no one is. It’s not like we get a handbook with the diagnosis “how to have cancer and make it ok”. Heck, I have dealt with a LOT of cancer and terminal illness in my life and I still suck at it. Being a family member of someone going through cancer treatments and being a survivor myself I can tell you a few things that might help us all navigate this:
- Be positive or optimistic it is amazing
- There is research that shows that having a positive outlook and attitude is PHENOMENAL for treatment outcomes. Just please don’t shove it down someone’s throat and block out everything else. Or brush something off. Everyone work together to validate feelings and emotions without stomping all over each other.
- Not allowing the range of all the emotions will back fire. This is true for those of us diagnosed as well as those that are supporting and in the circle. Get used to being uncomfortable with your feelings. Also get used to feeling completely different than you thought you would. Thought you’d be excited to be done treatment and find you are uneasy or scared? Me too. Was anticipating being scared about treatment but you are calm cool and collected? Take that to the bank!
- Find your people that you can be true to about how you are actually feeling – even if you aren’t sure how you are feeling – that you can verbal diarrhea with. Getting it out in the open is key! (Well for me anyways…)
- Try not to feel bad for limiting who you contact and delegate, delegate, delegate
- As the person with cancer – it is draining to even think about calling or messaging every single person that is important to you. I highly recommend choosing your handful of people you want to tell yourself, and then tasking them with contacting everyone else. A friend set-up a private Facebook group for me to use to disseminate information and only having to write it out or say it once was a blessing. I still went through the experience with my husband, and would often talk to my mom and my sister individually.
- I hear from others in the “cancer club” that they struggle with friends and family that become upset that they aren’t contacted directly – think about the mental load. Don’t make it about you. This is hard enough as it is. Breathe and recognize that it was likely a mistake, or that there just isn’t enough energy for it. We still love you all, but right now being a little selfish is necessary
- Support is king
- Tangible, reliable, honest to goodness support is the bomb. Offer to do something specific. As someone who is going through the gamete, having to think about and decide what will help can feel utterly impossible. Morale support is also very needed – help us get through the emotional roller coaster
- Give everyone grace
- This one is for my diagnosis buddies. There are going to be friends and family that don’t react or say the things that you expect or anticipate. I suggest seeking who makes you feel most centered after speaking with them and focus on increasing your discussions with them.
- For the family and friends and supporters – if your person is struggling or not speaking as much don’t be offended. Sometimes the ways in which we support each other through this time is by giving grace and allowing space. Having hurt feelings or being offended isn’t going to help anyone – not you and not the person that is struggling.
- Don’t listen to me
- Do I have the hand book? NOPE! I have no idea what you will need, how you will cope, or how you can support the person in your life on this journey. What I do know is this:
If we can all agree that we aren’t good at this, we can walk this journey together in whatever way makes it best for you