Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Telling the Family

I received a phone call tonight from an old friend of mine with whom I haven't had the opportunity to chat for probably over a year.  He heard the news about my cancer through his mom.  He had been out of town working for many months and by the time he got back, the news wasn't very fresh anymore and with Christmas and the holidays everyone had just forgotten to tell him.  I didn't do the whole 'call everybody I know' thing when I found out.  I know a lot of people and, to be honest, I just didn't feel like going over it a hundred times.  I figured people would find out through the grapevine and I encouraged that.  I'm not shy (I'm blogging about it, for Heaven's sake!) so I figured that would be a free pass to everyone to let their friends and family know.

The phone call tonight reminded me of my day of diagnosis.  Something that I've been wanting to write about was what it was like to be on my side of the phone when making all those phone calls to my family.  The first thing my specialist had told me to do was to let my close family know (my blood sisters, my mom and my dad).  It was very important to let them know to go get tested immediately.  At that time it was suspected that I carried the gene that makes colon cancer more common in some families (which we now know I DO NOT have- Phew!).  Nevertheless, if you have a close relative with colon cancer, it increases your chance of getting it sometime in your lifetime, so GO GET CHECKED if any of your siblings, parents, or children have it.  That's an order!  One of the worst things I had to hear from my specialist is that my baby girl is going to have to be screened for most of her life because of my cancer.  It makes me sad to think that my body's betrayal will affect my one year old's life in such a way.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that even though I had come to a place of some acceptance when I made each of the phone calls to my close family members, I still had to sit on the other side listening to them absorb and react to the information that their loved one has cancer.  I tried to be light hearted, I tried to make it seem like no big deal, but the whole cancer scenario is a hard pill to swallow.  One of those jagged little pills, if you will.  I had to listen as some of them swore, others cried, others tried to cover up the fact that they were crying, and just the general misery in all their voices.  It's a tough thing to take in.  It's tough to sit there, a province away in most cases, and not be able to make it better.  Then there was also the thought process of, "I shouldn't have to make it better.  They should be consoling me."  I suppose I made myself be somewhat selfish and did my best not to offer up too much condolence.  After all, the disease was inside me.  I could tell that each and every one of them wanted to be strong.  I could also tell that each and every one of them was scared sh*tless (if you don't mind the language).

Oddly enough, I had peace that day.  I had my day of fear and crying the Wednesday prior to my diagnosis.  (It was the day after my colonoscopy and I kind of pieced together what was going on and what the doctors were trying to confirm.  I was hoping for the best, but expecting the worst when I went in on the day I was diagnosed.)  I believe that the peace I felt came from the Lord.  I had to accept the fact that I might die.  I had to come to terms with that.  What was strange for me was that it felt comfortable.  The worst part about dying (not that I've ever done it or plan on it anytime soon), in my young and humble opinion, is leaving the people behind.  I got caught up in thinking about how everyone would feel and what they would do without me.  I think we've all fantasized or wondered about what our funeral will be like when we die.  Who will show up?  How many tears?  What songs will be dedicated to me?  And if you think beyond the funeral, what effect will my death have on my family and friends?  I have, unfortunately, had 2 friends of mine from high school pass away in the last decade and have seen and lived the effects of a young life lost.  It's tough, but we go on living.  We are humans and if there is something that we are good at, it's adapting.  We find the strength to go on; some in God, some in others, but we find it nonetheless.  We are incredible creatures.

I believe that now that we are a month and a half into my cancer journey, my family has a different outlook on the situation.  I'm sure those initial emotions have changed and the fear has subsided.  They are still very concerned.  My Mom is actually arriving tomorrow to help me out some more around the house and with Gwen (very excited!).  My family really has been rallying beside me and lifting me up.  They are my biggest supporters and I love them all for it.  I hope to be able to do the same thing if and/or when they need my support.

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