I f**king hate cancer, it claimed both my parents, uncle, dear friends and recently my wife has been walking the breast cancer path. I hate it.
After walking alongside my wife through her journey I realized that cancer and what surrounds it is really awful.
On a social level it carries such a negative stigma that people are still afraid to reach out or talk to those affected.
They don’t know what to say or how to help, the downside is that this then looks cold and uncaring.
I call this silence “cancer awkwardness” – when people don’t know to talk to someone going through cancer so they don’t. They avoid or ignore the subject or resort to meaningless lines like “how are you going?”, “just let me know if you ever need anything”, or even “it’s like a new rebirth for you” or cry and want to hug. (Word of advice, hugging someone going through chemo is NOT a good idea, their immune systems are shot, the drugs kill white blood cells so hugging them exposes them to potential infection).
The other thing about hugs I’ve noticed is that some hugs make the sick person feel better, it’s like a transfer of aroha, and it’s amazing. Then there’s the other type intended to make the hugger feel good about themselves..so for someone that’s sick, ask first (don’t be offended if it’s a no) and hug like you mean it.
I really hate cancer…, the crippling waits and uncertainty. Waiting for test results, waiting for appointments, waiting for surgery, waiting for phone calls, doctors, lab results, in hospital rooms, all the bloody waiting gives you way too much time to dwell on all the negatives. Add this to the lack of transparent information and a wheel barrow load of uncertainty and it’s a one way beating.
Then there’s all the pain, buckets of it, only differing in intensity when the multitude of drugs kick in. When the one drug doesn’t work they try another one, oh and then there are the side effects of the drugs! When they rare their ugly heads they give you more drugs. The side effects encyclopedia is the size of an old fashioned phonebook!
Cancer not only destroys the person physically but completely drains any mental resilience they may have left but for me, watching from close, it’s the soul wrenching loneliness that comes with trying to cope and for people going through it alone it must be unbearable. This loneliness crushes both the person going through the cancer, and the support person or caregivers.
As they sit there with the weight of cancer they watch the world carry on without them and feel like it’s just them going through it alone. This is when their world gets smaller and smaller and the confidence totally disappears.
Here’s an insight to the cancer walk.
When you get the “bad” news a million uncertainties cram through your head, as you come to reconcile some of them you start letting close family know and after a mental struggle you let a few close friends know.
Then there’s this mad rush of sympathy from family and friends, ( you get phone calls, messages, even food!) Because its news and its exciting for everyone.
However as time goes on and the roller coaster of chemo, radiation treatment and surgery gets rolling cancer becomes old news and people trail off…a little loneliness starts.
Then as hair falls out, eyebrows disappear, coughing, skin loses it colour people start to notice again and a little more sympathy trickles in. You may even get a visit or two.
At this point the person going through treatment feels like shit, looks strange and is usually in pain. Ironically, this is when you get the “how’s it going” or even “you’re looking well ” and hugs.
It kills me to see this point as they are usually putting on a brave face through the pain, while exchanging pleasantries.
This part is hard, it’s a long, slow, agonizing slog, filled with drugs, treatments, doubts, financial hardship and relationships are stretched thin and the loneliness is real.
This stage, sadly, you really know who your friends are as the rest have moved on with their own lives. If you still have friends that come around, just to chat or visit now, you have found gold, cherish them forever.
As the chemotherapy, radiation treatments or surgery finishes there’s a dreadful wait for the results. It can go either way here, good luck.
If you are fortunate, you start getting better but it still takes a long time to recover, especially from the chemo drugs and you even get a few side effects as souvenirs. Basically, no one is ever the same as when they started, physically or emotionally.
I really really hate cancer, its hideous and anyone telling you it’s not, they have no fucking idea.
If I was to take anything away from supporting someone going through this and talking with others, is that the human spirit is incredible, true friendship is very rare, (cherish it ) and love..well cancer redefines what love is.
Keep it real, honest, don’t glamorise it because there’s nothing glamorous about it at all. It’s a long slow painful fight, but you can do it, as others before have done and most off all you don’t need to do it alone.
If you are struggling, either as a support person or someone fighting cancer drop me a message. Sharing the load or a coffee really does help, and there is help available..