With so much emphasis on the curability of cancer at early detection, the recurrence of cancer bestows you with membership to an exclusive club. Some members find membership so exclusive that even other members of the cancer community sometimes become less friendly and welcoming. And, family and friends, like we who are in the midst of the battle, in an effort to cope, can refuse to accept a reality that shatters the fragility of optimism. Everyone wants to hear that your cancer will be cured. No one wants to acknowledge the raw and painful truth that the future is a battle with the beast that will likely take you out.
Sometimes, in trying to cope with that reality, some well-meaning friends offer fantastic stories of cures from a variety of sources, like teas, herbs and prayer. Often, it’s simply a matter of their not knowing what to say and feeling they must say something encouraging. Sometimes, friends don’t know that simply listening is very welcome. What to say? Most of the time not much more is needed than, my thoughts/my prayers will be with you during this time. If you want to offer more, it’s up to you. By all means, avoid the story of distant kin who “had the same thing as you,” but after drinking xyz tea and returning to the doctor, showed no evidence of cancer having ever existed. Remember that everyone with cancer has a unique treatment that can result in very different side effects and outcomes; resist the urge to compare your friend with someone else you know or knew had similar cancer and treatment. And, certainly avoid telling the story about someone you knew who died of the same cancer.
This is not a membership that anyone seeks. We hate being here. We hate having to face the unwelcome notion that our cancer is incurable or aggressive or whatever chilling word applies to our current condition. We hate that when you ask, so when does your chemo end, the answer is much more complicated than, in six weeks or six months. We hate it that we are often terrified and work hard at donning a happy face to go out in public and to give the answers that others want to hear and that we ourselves hope for.
Sadly, we recognize that some of our friends will refuse to come with us, but, thankfully, we will find friends in current and brand new acquaintances. Membership in this club may not have been our choice, but here we find a camaraderie that keeps humming a special tune that keeps us dancing and even laughing when we step on each others’ toes.
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