Updated 5 January 2014 re. cancer fatigue
I’ve written two posts on the book “Cancer Etiquette” as guides to what to say or not to say if someone you know has cancer:
Book reviews – Cancer Etiquette Part 1
The following article, from the Onion (a satirical site), is a gentle poke at what is usually an awkward subject, a kind of reverse cancer story from the point-of-view of the friend of the cancer patient. It takes all the standard cliches of a cancer patient’s journey and applies it to the supporting friend.
(I found the link from another cancer blog (Shinscancerblog: http://shinscancerblog.blogspot.co.uk/2009/02/shins-unpublished-posts-cancer-friend.html))
Here is the link to “Man With Friend With Cancer ‘Going Through A Rough Time” and an excerpt:
“BISMARCK, ND—Three months ago, Mark Sennis received the news that everyone dreads: Ben Murphy, a friend and coworker with whom he “occasionally went out to lunch,” had been diagnosed with cancer.
Sennis, who has been suffering from having a friend with cancer since July.
“You never think you’re going to be the one,” Sennis said. “At first, I remember thinking, ‘How can this be happening to me? What have I done to deserve to have a friend with cancer?'”
Sennis, who has known Murphy since they started working in the same department at Motorola in 2003, said having a friend with cancer is “a life-altering experience.”
Sennis said that, while it initially seemed like “life had come to an end,” he “made the decision to keep living.”
“One thing I’ve learned in all this is that life goes on,” Sennis said. “Well, maybe not for Ben. But for me. The only thing I can do is take it one day at a time.”
Sennis said his struggle has made him reconsider his relationship with God.
“I wonder why God would do this to me,” Sennis said. “It’s like God is punishing me for something by giving cancer to a friend of mine.”
Due to the adversity he has faced, Sennis said he has had to take special care of himself.
“I don’t consider giving up an option,” Sennis said. “So, for the past two months, twice a week, I’ve been treating myself to a massage. It’s expensive, but it’s the least I can do for myself as I go through this really tough time.”
Added Sennis: “I’m not going to let Ben’s cancer beat me.”
I think it’s a gentle reminder to those on the cancer journey that our supporters have feelings and needs too!
BTW, If you’re reading this and don’t have cancer, and are thinking of sending it to a friend who has cancer – DON’T!!!
It’s an unspoken rule that only people with cancer are allowed to send jokes about cancer to each other!
If a non-cancer friend had sent me the link, I’d probably have taken it personally – what? You mean I’m being insensitive and demanding? But I’m the one with cancer!!!
Yes, I’m sorry if the cancer patient comes across as self-absorbed and self-centred, but we are fighting for our lives and having to deal with some huge life-changing issues (like death!), and very nasty treatments that no one would in their sane minds volunteer for.
There is a book that I would have enjoyed had it been given to me; “Cancer made me a Shallower Person” by Miriam Engelberg, which is a perceptive and funny poke at all those positive cancer survivor books. I’ve read it three times and still laugh at her observations. I think it’s one of those books that you can safely buy for a person who has cancer, without causing offense, because it’s written by someone who had breast cancer, had been through the shit and still managed to find the funny side of what was happening.
It can’t be easy trying to support the person with cancer. The initial diagnosis is always met with a flurry of good intentions and offers to help. But either fatigued by the length of the cancer journey, or pre-occupied with their own concerns, or differences or opinion, I have friends who’ve dropped by the wayside. It’s something I’ve come to accept, painful though it is.
I had a colleague who said to me recently when I told her that I was feeling weighed down by the cancer: “don’t you think other people have their own problems too?” Er, yes … but on top of the usual worries about money, mortgage, work politics etc., I’ve got cancer. Cancer turns the volume up on everything – if your life was full of problems before that, cancer adds to it, if you were a worrier before cancer, you now have more to worry about. I think part of the problem is that people don’t realise that even after the initial treatments, it’s not the end of the cancer journey … cancer can come back. It’s like living with a heavy backpack of worries.
I took my friends out to lunch last year to thank them for supporting me through a year of the cancer journey. It was an expensive lunch, at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental in London, but it was worth every penny and I could afford it at that time (as I hadn’t been to Hallwang!) and I thought I’d better spend the money while I could still enjoy it! A good team of friends is so precious!
What have your friends done for you that have left you touched to the core?
What have you done for them in return?