July 22, 2013

Cancer Abandonment: Dealing with the Loss

I've been dealing with an inner struggle for a few weeks now. And even though I know it's in my best interest to just LET IT GO … my pit bull tendency is to latch my jaw around something and hold on tight. Once that happens, it's hard for me to release that grip. 

My issue is with what I like to call, cancer abandonment. As I write this I'm starting to feel a bit self centered, like everyone should pay attention to ME and all the focus should be on ME. That is not what I'm going for here, truly! I'm talking about friends and loved ones who I believed had my back no matter what and in some cases all out proclaimed that they were there for me NO MATTER WHAT.  And now … crickets. Chances are pretty good if you're reading this blog, you're not one of them. :-) 

OK, OK, I admit that going through cancer treatment can make a person pretty needy and self absorbed, however isn't that is the point of all this? FOCUS on yourself, with the obvious goal of becoming cancer free by the end of treatment?  If I learned one thing from those who have preceded me on this journey it's "Ask for help when you need it." I'm getting to the point where I need help and I have very few folks in close proximity that I can ask. And yes, I realize that some people may have their own hang ups with cancer or perhaps they suffered the loss of a loved one to cancer and now they don't have the capacity to deal with it. To that I'd like to add the caveat, next time don't over promise and under deliver because many of us take those proclamations to heart. Like ME! Then I jump on over to the career side of life where there are all these wonderful little "rules" that are put in place by employers advising everyone at my level and above, NOT to inquire about an employee's health or show concern for their "condition" when they are out on FMLA or short term disability. This one chaps my ass because as a manager myself, I truly CARE about those who are on my team and if they were to go through an illness, I would want to show my support and concern. As you can guess this "rule" applies to me and my current situation. God forbid corporations blur the lines and find a more 'human' approach to an employees illness. However, they can't do that because someone might get spanked or worse, sued. It is time to come to terms with all of it, mourn the loss of those who are not capable of keeping up and move on. I know that it is for my own good. 

Conversely, I'd be remiss if I didn't declare my delight for those who lurk in the background and appear like earth angels when I need it most. Like my unassuming neighbor who is a talented BBQ pit master and shows up at my door unannounced with a heaping plate full of BBQ chicken! Or another neighbor who sees my socially challenged son riding his bike up and down the street, clearly bored that he's stuck at home this summer with his lackluster chemo Mom. What does she do? Invite him to go swimming in their pool with her kids. A simple yet incredibly welcome gesture! Or sweet Erin, who offers to help me manage my rapidly decreasing hair and brings me banana bread to lift my spirits! And my wonderful son, who traveled across the U.S. from New Mexico to show his support for his Ma. I am grateful and blessed to have this unforeseen help show up when I least expect it.

As I struggle to make peace with all of it, I found an excellent article on the Huffington Post website, The Things I Wish I Were Told When I Was Diagnosed With Cancer. This article really cut to the quick, hitting on ALL the things I wish I was told! I believe it is also a great read for those who have a friend or loved one undergoing cancer treatment. Thank you Jeff Tomczek for this great article! I encourage you to check it out! 

* ADDENDUM: I've made more than a few folks concerned that this is pointed at them. For that I apologize, that was NOT my intent! If you've mailed or emailed me, talked to me, FB messaged me, or even batted an eye my direction one time since I started chemotherapy, I assure you my feelings posted above are NOT directed at you! 

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