I wrote this in 2014. I had just finished radiation treatment for breast cancer where I had met fellow cancer patients and I was getting ready for radiation treatment for stage three thyroid cancer. The thoughts are still relevant.
You can fight this thing.
You must have a good attitude.
You are not going to die.
How does one express fear when told to be brave and fight? How does one express a searing feeling of helplessness? Fight what exactly?
A cancer patient has a good attitude every day when she wakes up and wishes her cancer is gone, but still knowing in the recesses of her heart that it is still be there and she still gets out of bed and carries on.
A cancer patient is brave every day when she accepts the changes that have come into her life and she is able to come to terms with the reality that life will never be the same again.
A cancer patient has a positive attitude when she endures all the insults her body will endure for the sake of treatment. Calling it a treatment doesn’t make it less barbaric or less invasive.
A cancer patient is allowed to cry. With so many life disruptions and so much invasion with drugs, surgery and radiation, it is hard not to cry. All a person really wants is someone there. No words.
Do we die alone when others refuse to see what is real? Let’s face it. Some of us will die. We know who we are. We need help in getting through it. Plans that need to be made. Words that need to be said. Most cancer patients in the final stage know they are there. No surprises. A cancer patient needs not to be lonely. They need to share this stage, too.
How can we do the job we need to do when we are expected to be unrealistic heroes?
Look closer at your loved one with cancer. You will see a person who is already a hero. You will see someone working very hard to understand what is going on, someone living her day as best she can while waiting for the last treatment to shrink the tumor or waiting for the latest test results.
You will see the struggle she has as those very markers that she identified with her life start to erode, to slip away. She tries so hard to keep up a good front. Women who have to work through the very worst of their treatment just to keep their insurance. Moms with little children struggling to care for their children after chemo. There are many heroes among us.
A cancer patient needs a kind word, a thoughtful gesture. A cancer patient will have ups and will have downs. She will endure. Grow stronger. Be confident that she can handle her fate as she has so many times before. To help them get there, a little kindness goes a long ways.
In 2018 I had my third cancer. Treatment was brutal. It was a bad cancer. I was fortunate that for the third time my rheumatologist ordered the tests that would reveal the seriousness of it. So, it was treated early. Yes, my rheumatologist saved my life three times.