Learning Curve of Cancer-The People

I used to be annoyed with the head tilt and big sigh when people meet and greet me, but I now realize that people really don’t know how to deal with this even if they had someone in their family who had cancer. I am now accepting of all ranges of reactions which include ignoring the fact that I have cancer or nervous laughter or silly comments. I still do not accept EV (emotional vampires) and their horror stories of “poor me, my cleaning lady did not show up or poor me, our vacation home in Maui needs new carpet….” I must say that I am least accepting of stupidity. I prefer silence or a simple comment about the weather. I also understand the emotionalism about the word cancer. I am not afraid of tears, frustration, or extreme laughter at the irony of the situations. I am hoping more people don’t pretend to understand when they simply cannot even comprehend what I go through, what my motivations are, what my family goes through. I also really don’t dig the comment, “breathe, relax, or you know what you should do”. I am breathing and sometimes, there isn’t time to relax. If I had the answers or knew what the right thing to do was, believe me I would “fix it” or “do it”. Unfortunately, there are no answers and cancer has a funny way of behaving and not cooperating as you would like it.

How as my behavior changed since cancer? I am all about planning what I can plan. I have so much out of my control and out of control for my family that every bit of planning helps. I try to be more accepting of the unknown even though it frustrates the hell out of me. I am more present for friends, family, and strangers. You never know who you may meet or you may connect with or learn something from even a stranger. I often do not have a reason for why I do what I do. I often “just do it”. I do things that make me happy or provide me with more sense of purpose. As Alex says, he enjoys things that busy his mind from his worries. I am the same way.  I appreciate people trying to understand, but sometimes my motives are illogical and I panic about things that people may find silly. I get frustrated with people who get caught up in the silliness and do not look at the big picture. Is it that critical that your house has piles of clean clothes in the laundry basket? BUT if that will make your day complete or make you happy, then go for it-fold the laundry! I have learned that I won’t question other’s motivation or be disappointed. We all have different priorities. I am happy for everyone who does not have to think about the things I do or as Alex told the middle school, his stress and worries are not what they would think. I am surprised and relish those who try to get “it” as Alex says. I am thankful for my cheerleaders and my positive team who get me off the pity pot when I sit there for a minute or two. I have changed my old “gotta go, got someplace to be” attitude. So, I don’t have milk in the fridge or did not work out. I was thrilled to hear what is new and exciting for you or listened to your frustrations. Life happens and I don’t expect it to stop for those around me. I am still the same person who likes to “solve” and “help others”. I enjoy trying to help people of all ages. I love to listen to stories just as people have listened to me. I stop questioning other’s priorities and am more accepting of the fact people cannot truly understand mine. What may seem silly as to why I think about Alex’s bar mitzvah since he has 2+ years to go is important because every day I ask myself what hopes, dreams, plans I want for Alex. Unlike most people, I am forced to think about these things daily. I don’t worry about the what-ifs, but only think about what needs to happen. So, when people think I may need rest or need to walk or need to eat, I appreciate the care and thoughtfulness, but my motivation for the moment may be different. People cannot know what my daily battles are all about or what this cancer job puts me through or my family through. Just know that I have reasons for the things I do and say.

Most of all, I am more understanding and accepting that people are people with various personalities and idiosyncrasies. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Most people have good intentions and cancer is “messy”. People don’t always react in a range of what is an expected norm of behaviors. I must say that I selfishly love those who ask, “What can I do to make things easier for you” or do small things to make me smile (a funny card, a letter, an email, a photo, a flower or a simple hug).  I am always learning about myself and others. I do have high expectations of those who surround me as I put those same expectations on myself. I don’t have time for the pettiness of those who focus on all the minutiae that won’t make a difference in the long run. I do say to myself often, “what is important here?”. I also ask, “Why am I really upset?” Usually, the answer to that question is that it truly isn’t fair and a life of a cancer patient isn’t easy. Then, I re-focus myself and think about my first question and am more present for the moment. One day at a time still works for some things. I have come a long way in judging people and even judging cancer patients. What is good for one is not good for all. I still believe sitting too long on the pity pot and not being positive is not helpful or healthful. So, clean your house, fold your laundry, and tilt your head, scream, laugh, cry, or stomp your feet-there isn’t a right answer in reacting to cancer. I choose to enjoy the sunshine around me. I hope you find yours.



One Response to “Learning Curve of Cancer-The People”

  1. Ruthie Says:

    I always find inspiration and wisdom in what you have to say. I used to be that person that had to have everything in its place, house clean, laundry done, etc. Then I had kids and realized that it was less important to make sure the cereal bowls got into the dishwasher and more important to seize the moment ; watch and play with my boy as he laughed and played with the tupperware or whatever; the dishes would get done but going to the park was more fun. Hope today brings you smiles! xoxox Ruthie

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