Friday, October 9, 2015

Cancer Month

It's one of those __(fill in the blank with appropriate type)__ Cancer Awareness months again. You'll see color schemes, ribbons, walks, and fundraisers. You'll see cancer survivors, their friends, and random people who fall into the "support-but-not-support" trend to look like they're doing something.

I'll tell you what. Cancer sucks. It sucks hard. Any type. Going through the downs, the false ups, the harder downs, and the really shithole downs. The pain that nobody can do anything about. The people nagging you to do things you don't feel like because you just want to crawl into bed and go to sleep all the time. The pills. The overtake of brain space about timing and when to take which pills and with or without what foods or drinks. These, by the way, are just very basic first-hand observations. I'm not going to pretend I know what it's like having Cancer, because I don't have it. *knock on wood* I wouldn't wish it on anyone, based on what I've seen.

Something else that's highly forgotten during these Cancer Awareness trends....are all the caregivers for the Cancer patient. They feel helpless. They try their best to do everything and anything they can to ease the pain, to forget about the suffering, to keep them strong in mind, body, and spirit. They give all of themselves to help their loved one(s). Oftentimes, they give to the point, where they forget to give to themselves, too. They'll forget to take care of themselves because the dishes need to get done, the dog needs a bath, and the sheets need to be washed....twice, because it's the day after chemo. There's no time for a nap, or a workout, or a solitude walk in the park, or outings with friends. They have to stay by their loved ones' side, just in case. They give up their quality (and quantity) of sleep to help their loved one go to the bathroom, or rub their back, or get their pain meds, or call the doctor. They have to make food, but good food, and go grocery shopping for things they don't know how to find but are supposed to be good for fighting Cancer. They spend a lot of money on efforts that are often tried only once or twice. They can give up their sanity. It's hard being a caregiver for a Cancer patient. As much as they're putting in, and TRYING, there's not much they can do, except watch their loved one constantly suffer. Even dealing with the doctors is rough. False reads, miscommunicated information, incorrect information, omission of information, and being treated by them like the details don't matter, so they give the "just do as I say because I'm the doctor and you're the patient" reason. Emergency room runs are tiring (as we all know that trips to the ER are never less than 6 hours, with most of it being painful and irritating waiting). Being so familiar with the hospitals that you could draw a map and point out the shortcuts and times of day where they have free coffee at which parts of the oncology ward.

And then there's the feeling of unfairness and guilt. The "why me?" From the patient and the caregiver. Why the person who had no prior health issues and took good care of themselves and is a good person ended up with 2 types of Stage 4 cancer, where the guy who smokes 4 packs a day, eats fast food, and kicks puppies for fun ends up with nothing more severe than mild hypertension. It wasn't supposed to happen this way. It really wasn't. I don't understand why, or how, or why. Why. He's supposed to live until he's 110, with the way his life was going up until he was diagnosed. The doctors had told him he had the health of someone who was 25 years younger in age. Until that day. That day that changed his life, and everyone who cares about him 's life.

If you'd like to help with "finding a cure," go ahead, go on that 10k walk with your friends while you're dressed in your new pink sports shoes, your pink namebrand shirt, and all those pink ribbons pinned everywhere. But be aware that most of any monies raised in those events just goes in some deep, happy pockets, not actual unbiased research.

But if you would like to make an immediate impact on people who are dealing with Cancer in their lives, being themselves as the patient, or the caregiver, it takes a little more heart that bombarding passerbyers with colors. Bake a casserole, buy groceries, mow their lawn, wash their dishes, do their laundry, give their dog a walk and a bath, kick the caregiver out of the house for a few hours to do something they enjoy while you spend some time with the patient. These seem like little, meaningless, day-to-day things that aren't important. But to the caregiver, it means the world. And spending time with the patient will lift their spirits, and give them a little change of pace, which they need, even if it's just a temporary distraction from the pain.

There are different levels of suffering from the effects of Cancer. Watching your favorite football team wearing pink shoes while they play won't do much. I've heard that 1 in 2 or 3 people now will have some type of cancer in their lifetime. Those odds suck. Chances are, you know someone who is or will be going through it. Please don't be scared to just rock up to their house with food and the adamant intention to do some type of housework for them. I promise you, it will mean more to them than any colored ribbon you wear.

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