The end of the summer was a little difficult for my family, to say the least. As I shared back in September, my uncle was diagnosed with cancer. The conversation his wife and I started then about the support they are getting from their network has continued; it’s a little convoluted at times and unsatisfying as we try to straighten and clarify our thoughts. It’s a little like the initial and still underdeveloped thoughts I shared in another post inspired by this situation on how building awareness is important to taking action against cancer and its effects. Working on that post made me realise how helpless I felt when it came to helping.
Then my aunt sent me this:
“It seems like yesterday that we were given the cancer diagnosis but in truth it has been a couple of weeks now that our mind is still in constant turmoil. For every bit of good news, there is one that takes your breath away. Every time you lose your breath, you have to take another one to be able to take the next step. For every step, you have found another piece of the puzzle. For every piece you put in place, you realize that cancer is still a dark corridor with many open and closed doors, open and barred windows, and many lighted or dark rooms. You realize that you have to look towards the future and visualize where you want to be in one second, one minute, one day, one week, one month, one year and more. As much as you’d like to take a second to just breathe and not think, there is too much to do because even with all the advance in science and medical field, there is still a lot of unknown factors that this journey will take you on.
It is a journey that could be as long, as hazardous, as heartbreaking, as mindboggling as nothing that you have ever come across before. In some ways, it is like going through a series of miscarriages not one at a time but all at the same time with no end in sight.
I am not in my husband’s shoes, I have no idea what is going on in his head, heart, and soul as he struggles to get past this cancer and get better by following the doctor’s orders and relying on me to give him everything else he needs. There are no classes to take to give us the knowledge that we need to get through this. All that I can do is hug and kiss him even if it does not make it go away. To cuddle up to him when he is not in pain and take his hand and kiss him more. To just make a simple chicken sandwich the way he likes it to see him smile. To search high and low to find new recipes to be ready for whatever he wants at the moment he wants it. To sit with him while he is watching his hockey, to keep quiet when he is upset, to do everything so that he is in less pain, to make him laugh when we can, to just enjoy a cup of coffee with him.
And then, there is our little angel who sees feels and understands to some degree what is going on. My heart is split in two to give them each what they need, to spoil her in ways that will give her more hope as to the uncertain future. To teach her to have trust in the All-Mighty through her heart and prayers. To be there for each of them when they most need it, to spend time with each of them without neglecting the other and also to spend time together as a family. To sing and dance with her to uplift both our spirits and keep our moral high for his sake, her sake, my sake, and all of our sakes. To be the best mother and wife that I can be now and to pray that I will remember these times and learn from them.
The road to healing seems long but you find unusual ways of put one foot in front of the other, to take one breath at the time and one step at a time. The days go by with your faith and beliefs giving you more hope with every sunrise, carrying you through the highs and lows until the turmoil in your heart, mind, soul, and spirit calm down.”
It suddenly dawned on me that of course we don’t know what to do. How could we, when my aunt and uncle themselves don’t even know what’s going on? How can we expect anyone to know what their needs on in a period define by turmoil and tumult?
Therefore, the best thing one can give is understanding. We should understand that they don’t know what’s going on; we should understand that they don’t know what they need; we should understand that phone call will come on a Friday afternoon that will require a complete change of weekend plans. And we should remain patient that, as those we love advance on the path of their illness, an understanding of what they need will emerge and the form the support we can give them can become more systematic—but never forgetting that just because at the beginning, we seemed to be doing less, we were in fact doing just as much, if not more.
Image courtesy of Death to Stock.
4 thoughts on “The Emerging Clarity of Supporting Someone with Cancer”
This was very beautifully written, very true and very touching. I lived those confusing times when my mother was diagnosed and it was hard to know how to let family and friends in. It was her choice to keep it a secret, but I often wondered how it would have been if more people had known. Prayers from far, good thoughts and vibrations, patience, a listening ear, or just a word reminding someone that they are loved. It all helps.
Thank you Elaheh for your warm words and your insight, born out of unfortunate experience. Did the community rally around you and yours once your dear mother passed away?
How is your uncle doing now?
He is doing a lot better, thank you for asking Eva!