Unexpected Life Lessons

Sometimes life emotionally draws you into places you’d never go willingly if fate had not intervened . Cancer is the tour guide to those places.

When Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer it was tough to know if we should share the news.  How would our friends react?

We also had to find new ways to cope on a daily basis. I’m pretty sure that this part is an ever-evolving process, but it’s not all bad.

It’s been a couple months now and this is what I’ve gleaned from the bombshell of cancer.

Some people can take it and some can’t get away fast enough.

Hearing your friend has cancer is hard. It’s scary in a way that becomes scarier the more you sit with the knowledge of it. It also touches on your own sense of mortality. Makes you think about your own demise and how close your own expiration date may be on the invisible timeline.

Mom and I have both had friends who have embraced us, and stayed in contact since her diagnosis. We’ve also had friends who virtually disappeared upon sharing this news. It was as if they needed to immediately coat themselves in emotion-resistant Teflon to avoid the inevitable.

I get it. I really do. Do I like it? Hell no!  I want to say:  “Man up! Damn it, this could be you.”

Compassion. Kindness. Understanding.

Sharing them doesn’t cost a dime.  However choosing not to share them may cost you far more than a friendship in the end.

Think about it.  “What would you want your friends and family to do if YOU had cancer?”

Gallows humor isn’t something everyone understands or appreciates.

As a nurse, Mom used it. As a cop, I used it. And even before that, my family used it because we’re just warped enough to see the humor in even the darkest of situations.

Gallows humor is a coping mechanism we are very familiar with and it works well to deflect momentary pain when you have cancer, or are in fear losing someone you love to the disease.

We’re using it a lot more lately.

Unfortunately, it isn’t understood or appreciated by everyone. We’re supposed to be happy and look for things that uplift our spirits. Dig for the pony no matter what! Sometimes the shovel we use to dig is our own and sometimes it’s borrowed, but it’s nearly always helpful.

I may be wrong, but irony can work wonders under the right circumstances too. 

There is sweetness when you let go of selfishness.

Mom and I are the best of friends. That evolved over the past 25 years or so. We’ve shared the greatest of life’s triumphs and the deepest of its sorrow – together.

That’s the beauty of being given the gift of such an incredible relationship. We have grown together through the good and the bad. I’ve found myself doing things for Mom because she’s the one who needs it. I’m lucky enough to have a husband and a daughter who support my efforts, and prop me up when I need it.

‘Giving’ of myself is the one gift I can offer that I know is always appreciated and is never too expensive.  Whether it is cleaning her house or just spending time chatting about nothing in particular, the time together that I send with my mother is never wasted and will always be dear to me.

Cancer isn’t all bad. It creates a microscope under which you see yourself, perhaps most clearly for the first time. “Don’t look away. You might just miss the lesson of a lifetime.”