I've never had a mother-in-law.
She died of breast cancer when my husband was 12 years old.
He was 10 years old when she 'got sick' and although she went through a radical surgery and treatment plan; and the doctors told the family they were 99% sure they got it all... that 1% they didn't get, killed her. Left three children without a mother.
My mother was diagnosed with cancer unexpectedly at age 51.
We didn't have cancer on either side of our family and it was a shock of course.
She also went through surgery, 6 rounds of chemo and 33 rounds of radiation.
She is currently 'cancer free' but anyone with cancer knows you never really are.
Emotionally you are always under the umbrella of fear, you live with tests and medications and in my mothers case, a permanent bracelet to warn emergency workers 'NO NEEDLES' in one arm and a hundred other small ways the cancer never really leaves your life.
And in all this... the doctors and nurses give lip service.
Some are half way decent at empathy.
Some doctors and nurses are so burnt out and hardened the words 'cancer' may as well be 'ear infection' or 'common cold' and they seem heartless and cold and uncaring.
Others are warm and have a great bed side manner and seem to truly care and listen... try to understand.
But the only doctors and nurses who understand the power of the words...
The horrible, awful feeling of 'waiting' for results that takes days, and weeks...
The excruciating pain...
are those who have had it.
About a year or two ago I read an editorial piece by someone on a very important medical research board who admitted how 'wrong' they were about those with cancer and what they went through only after their spouse got cancer. Their entire understanding of the treatment of cancer changed after watching their spouse go through it.
I was angry.
Because that's how it is with everything.
People with power to make decisions go through life making decisions without personal experience and blow off the fear, hurt, worry, pain, suffering and frustration of others because those 'others' are strangers. If it's your 'job' but not your 'life' you still get to go home at the end of the day... and you are not living it.
Until you do.
And once again, a professional gets cancer... and writes an editorial piece (in this case a personal blog) and she 'gets it' and not only gets it, but apologizes to all those with cancer she has worked with through the years... because she cared, but she didn't get it.
I first stumbled upon this through a news story (sourced at the top of this post) and then read the original on her blog (also sourced at the top). For those of us with families directly touched by cancer... I'm thankful for those professionals who finally 'get it' and understand. And can spread the word to their co-workers and others about how it's not what they think... it's worse.
Excerpts from the news with my morning coffee that inspired my comments and thoughts on this post.....
I prided myself in connecting with my patients and helping them manage their cancer and everything that comes with it. I really thought I got it- I really thought I knew what it felt like to go through this journey. I didn’t.
Oncology nurse Lindsay Norris never imagined she’d be told the three words she had said to dozens of patients before: You have cancer.
In a blog post published on Nov. 14, titled ‘Dear every cancer patient I ever took care of, I’m sorry. I didn’t get it,’ Norris, 33, who was diagnosed with stage III colorectal adenocarcinoma in September, apologized to every patient she’s treated since she went into nursing.
“I didn’t get what it felt like to actually hear the words,” Norris, from Olathe, Kansas, wrote in the post. “That day was the worst. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it…I didn’t get how hard the waiting is…I didn’t get how awkward it was to tell other people the news…I didn’t get how much you hung on to every word I said to you.”
"I didn’t get how hard the waiting is. It’s literally the worst part.
The diagnosis process takes forever. The different consults,
the biopsies, the exams and procedures… and the scans. Ugh, the scans.
You were going through the motions trying to stay positive- but at that point,
you had no idea what you were dealing with and the unknown was terrifying."
"Knowing the cancer is there and knowing you’re not doing anything to treat it yet is an awful, helpless feeling."
Since her diagnosis, the mother of a 3-year-old son and 7-month-old daughter has continued to work. And every night, without fail, she and her husband Camden try to keep things “as normal as possible” with their children and have dinner followed by bath time, story time and bed.
Norris is currently receiving radiation and chemotherapy tablets daily and will get a scan after Christmas to see how it’s affected the cancer. She’ll then undergo a permanent colostomy followed by four to six months of additional chemotherapy.
“I used to tell you that cancer will be just a phase in your life. Just like high school or something — it seems like it drags on and on when you’re in it, but soon it’ll all be a memory. I’m sorry if this made you feel marginalized – it is not a phase,” part of the letter reads.
“Yes, there are phases — the treatment won’t last forever, but you are changed now,” she continues. “The worrying won’t stop, the uncertainty won’t stop, the fear of recurrence or an awful end won’t stop. I hear that gets better- time will tell. And time is precious. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.”