I feel like I write a lot about loss when speaking of my cancer experience. That may seem like a downer, but truly, cancer treatment is a complicated process in more ways that expected. Bear with me for a few…
There’s so much to lose: lose control of your life, lose your hair, lose your lunch, lose a lot of money, lose time at work, lose your libido, lose your overall quality-of-life. In more extreme cases, lose your spouse and your house. And unfortunately, sometimes lose your life. On some level most of us may feel some sense of loss.
I keep talking about this because it’s not something that’s fun to talk about. Most people don’t know what to say when they find out you have cancer. They’re hesitant to say something to “remind you” of the illness, as if you could forget. Relationships can become strained and awkward.
Interactions with cancer patients often turn into a “rah-rah” fest, with well-meaning friends showering you with “you got this” encouragement. But that’s not always what you need to hear.
I urge everyone who cares about the well-being of a cancer patient to allow them the opportunity to express how crappy things are. To simply listen and not contradict them. Because being insistent that it’s not okay to talk about anything negative creates an even bigger sense of loss for the patient.
Does this sound wrong? We’ve been led to believe that being positive is the only way we should be and that it’s no fun to be around those who are gloomy.
But consider this: would you go to a funeral and try to get the grieving family to “cheer up”? Would you try to tell them jokes and elbow them into smiling? I don’t think you’d be very successful and might be escorted away – at the least your invitation to the meal afterwards would probably be revoked.
We know that behaving this way is unacceptable, at least in most cultures (I can’t speak for everyone). Grieving is an important part of the human condition and not being allowed to grieve loss can be very stressful and lead to problems down the road.
So it is for the cancer patient. There’s so much more going on than simply increased doctor visits and medical procedures. Minimizing the impact that this has on their lives may range from feeling unfair to devastating.
Of course, every patient is different and their reactions will differ too. But I would urge loved ones to err on the side of caution, give their cancer patient the time and space to process and grieve and save the exhuberant “cheering up” for a time when the patient seeks that out.
Ok, ok, the “loss of body odor” is one loss that’s not so bad!