I used to show up to my radiation treatments wearing a leopard robe and paper crown. It took some time for my (very serious) doctor to understand my humor but towards the end of my treatments, he always had a “butt joke” for me. Since I had rectal cancer at the time, it was quite appropriate. I believe my sense of humor got me through the toughest time of my life.
The other day I read a post from someone I follow on Face Book. She just finished chemo and her scans look good. Her recent post was about how her friends and family responded when she was diagnosed and then when she was going through treatment. Many of them offered advice and tried to comfort her with positive words. For this woman, it wasn’t helpful. She wanted someone to listen and not speak. She went on to write that cancer patients don’t need or want encouragement or advice, it makes them feel like they are to blame for getting sick in the first place.
While this is obviously true for her, it was not true for me. I’m one of those people who want to figure out what happened and if there is something I can do to make sure I stay healthy as possible. I like advice. I like encouragement. I don’t like someone sitting there looking at me with sad eyes. Only positive attitudes were allowed in my presence. Any crying (Including coming from my hubby or son) was to be done away from me.
I admit, I’m not the person you call if you just want to be sad. I’m not good at “holding space.” (and I won’t apologize for it). I’m the one you call to distract yourself, even for a little while. I’m the one who will make you laugh or smile. I’m the one who will encourage you because that’s what i want someone to do for me… and I was lucky to have people like that in my corner.
There is nothing wrong with how this person felt, who wanted someone to hold space for her but she doesn’t speak for all of us. I know because when I volunteered at the cancer center, I met other patients like me.
We all get through our life journey (including facing a life threatening illness) the best way we can. And anything we say is only our point of view, not everyone’s.