#20 It’s not just about you
20: It’s not just about you
It’s easy to get caught up in the whole “woe is ME” thing. I have cancer. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the notion that no one else is involved in this. No one else will deal with this but me. Nothing could be further from the truth though. I’m married to a wonderful woman who has been and is my rock. Without her I’d potentially be lost. I have a loving and caring mother. My mother-in-law is always there for us. My kids even play a role in my recovery (cuddles are the best healing known to man). Friends have gone out of their way to do great things for us.
The whole idea that it’s not just about me really struck home while I was in the hospital getting my transplant. My wife is a school teacher and school had just started back when most of this was going on. I was stuck in the hospital and she was working, visiting me, and being a single parent for almost a month. There were days where it was a struggle for her to decide to pick the kids up early from school and bring them to see me or have more time with me and leave them in the after school program so that we could have more time to ourselves. She was being affected just as much as me.
You have cancer, yes. Your loved ones, your family, your friends; they don’t. But they’re in it just the same as we are. I think it hit my mom harder than me. My dad had only passed a year before I found out I was sick. That’s not a lot of time to grieve for someone you’ve spent almost 50 years with. My mom had more questions than anybody else. Questions that if we couldn’t answer then we needed to ask. It’s not just about us. Those that care about you are with you on this journey. Don’t exclude them. Include them in as much as possible. It’s for their benefit as much as it is yours. They have every right to know what’s going on because they’ll be the ones to truly stay with you while you’re dealing with this.
Your loved ones may handle things differently. My wife is an excellent planner. She’s been our accountant, travel agent, you name it. Anything that needed a budget and a plan, she worked tirelessly on it. This ordeal for me was no different. Her first order of business was to get a notebook and start tracking my appointments and medical expenses. She kept records of when I had treatments, transfusions, lab work, all of it. It was extremely helpful to have all that info in an easily accessible point of reference.
I mention these things not to highlight or brag but to illustrate how invested other people will be in your life. You will have a lot going on. You will feel like shit. Despite all that, take some time to ask those around you how they’re doing. They’ll need help just like you will. Remember the airplane safety briefing? “Put your own mask on first before attempting to assist others.” I needed to beg my wife to go get a massage. Take time for herself. I told her she couldn’t take care of me if she was laid up.
There’s also friends. Those true friends that really want to help. It’s tough but let people help. They don’t know what else to do and it makes them feel good. It wasn’t easy for me. My ego would easily get in the way and try to decline letting people help. That’s not the right mindset though. Don’t take advantage of people’s generosity but realize that this isn’t some normal situation where sheer will alone will get you out of it. It will require help. Like I’ve touched on in a previous section (#9 Get Help and learn to accept it), getting help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of trust. It’s a testament to how much faith you’re putting in your friends and family.
When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t know how I was going to deal with it. I didn’t know how to take the news or what it all meant. That was part of the problem, “how was I going to deal with it?” The answer is that I wasn’t going to deal with it. We were going to deal with it. I wasn’t alone and I needed to come to terms with that. I didn’t want to make this anyone else’s burden. I never in my worst nightmares wanted to be someone that others were forced to care for. I had always hoped that I would be the one that would be taking care of others or at the very least doing so cooperatively.
Despite what I wanted, life has other alternatives planned. There were definitely days I needed help. I couldn’t drive myself to my appointments. I couldn’t make my own meals. Even in an electric recliner, it was difficult to go from laying down to a seated position. It would take me some time to gather my energy just to get out of the chair. My wife would have to help. My mother-in-law and my own mom were necessary in getting me around. I had unfortunately placed a lot of responsibility on them.
So, when I say it’s not just about you, I mean it. Others are there and others are affected. Don’t hurt the ones you love and be cognizant of the fact that they’re helping you. They want to help you or they’d leave your ass high and dry. It’s easy to look around the box that we think we’re in it alone, but our box is bigger than we think. There’s a lot of people there that are with us. There’s a lot of people that care and are trying to help. Don’t get so caught up in the “me, me, me” that you lose sight of what others are doing. Be thankful, be grateful, and be kind. It’s easy to lash out our hurt on those closest to us but they’re in it just as much as we are. We might be feeling like shit on certain days but those closest to us are doing their best to alleviate our hurt. Let them and glad they’re there. Say thank you. Make sure they’re taking care of themselves as well. Be sure that you realize that there’s more going on than just your own troubles.