Wednesday, October 4, 2017
When You Need Somebody - Part II
It's been a few days since we've returned from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Although we've made this trip many times, this was especially draining - physically, mentally and emotionally. Not just because we're older or that this cancer John is fighting is currently incurable, but also because we're more sensitive to the pain and grief around us. And as this center is the foremost of its kind in the country, perhaps in the world, the presence of pain and grief is profound and palpable. Not only do they deal with the most severe and rarest cases of cancer, but the patients they see are younger and younger. It's not unusual to meet someone who is caring for a young son or daughter with leukemia or to turn a corner and see a toddler with a bald head, wearing a mask and pulling a tiny chemo caddy.
But the trip was also draining emotionally because I was so much more sensitive to the small, spontaneous acts of kindness from strangers that I hadn't thought of before now as a form of support. Small moments of generosity and consideration when I least expected it -the two women who came up behind me to push John's wheelchair when they saw me pause, concerned it would get away from me down a ramp. Women I didn't know, didn't ask. Or the people who came out of nowhere to hold open the elevator for us or just smile when we passed. The shuttle drivers who remembered our names, the various service people who exhibited remarkable patience and compassion as we, and others, fumbled for change, or couldn't find what we were looking for. The nurse practitioner who double checked her answers to reassure us that she had provided the right information (even calling us at 10 p.m. with additional information to allay some of my concerns).
Most of all, however, it was the conversations we had with other patients and their caregivers as we waited for tests and doctors' appointments. Intimate, honest conversations about diagnosis, prognosis, resources, fears, worries, frustrations. Conversations too painful, too frightening for many folks, but for those of us in the midst of these challenges a strange relief. We are not alone. We are not weak because we are afraid. We are not demanding when we fight for those we love. It is not too much to ask for dignity and respect.
And it never ceases to take my breath away when someone who is already fighting for their life or the life of a loved one, someone we've just met offers to include us in their prayers.
So to the list I started in my previous post, I will add these lessons I am learning about support ~
~ Support comes in many different packages. Physical help can be the easiest to find, especially if you have the financial resources, or can provide it yourself. Intellectual support is as important, maybe more so for some people. Then there's emotional support, the people who can provide compassion and care, who know how to listen and just be there with and for you, with whom you can cry, but equally with whom you can laugh. And -
~Support can come from the most unexpected places and in the smallest acts of kindness.