Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hello out There...

I haven't officially blogged in awhile, so I thought today I'd write about something a few people asked about, and a very important subject I think in general.  I mentioned a few posts ago, that I would give my personal thoughts on how to deal with cancer in a family member, a close friend, or an acquaintance.  Take this for what it's's only one person's opinion.  I am certainly not an expert, although I have been going through it for a few years. I have talked to a few other cancer victims, and spouses of cancer victims just to make sure my feelings aren't completely weird or unusual.  
I have been assured I'm normal...sorta!

This is all from my perspective as an outsider...I have not experienced cancer myself, but I am about as close as one can get (unless it's your me, that would be a whole different ballgame. I can't even begin to speak to that, and wouldn't even try.)

When we very first found out, we took time to digest the news before we called and told anyone.  This is needed.  We were so shell shocked, and in hindsight, I don't think we waited near long enough to tell people.  I ended up being the spokesman for the two of us, which was fine. I gave a general amount of details, but again in hindsight, this was not necessary, and details probably got on people's nerves.  I tend to chatter when I'm not sure what to say or do.  
Details, I've decided, are only for a few, select people close to you.

If you hear someones been diagnosed with cancer, you might be tempted to Google it.  That is fine, and no one can stop you, but do not repeat or believe everything you read.  Each type of cancer is so specific to the individual.  What might be true for one person, may not be anywhere near the facts for another person with the "same" type of cancer.  I know a lot of people assume they know exactly what Scott and I have gone through... they do not.  I know for certain that some people think we made the wrong choice of treatment.  What they don't understand, is a ton of thought, research, and prayer went into our decision, and it was made in conjunction with specific information and diagnosis that they are not privy to.  Just because a treatment worked or failed for one person doesn't mean the exact same treatment will work or fail in another person.  

Ultimately, God is in control.

Do not assume the doctor is telling you everything good, or bad.  It has been our experience at two totally different clinics, that sometimes they tend to trickle out information.  I don't think they do this on purpose.  I think they talk to people all day long, and forget whether they told you something or not.  When it's someone really close to you, and you will be accompanying them to appointments, then I do suggest you Google reputable sites, in order to get a working knowledge of the vocabulary so you can ask pertinent questions.  Write questions down as you read, and have them in front of you when you call or go to the doctor.  Do not let the information panic you.  When Scott was diagnosed a second time, we read on the Internet on many different sites, that his cancer was now considered Stage IV.  That was a horrible couple of days, until we finally called the doctor and asked.  He totally disagreed with that assessment.  Again, each person is an individual, and even if you can check every box on the checklist, it still doesn't necessarily make it true. 

When you ask someone about their treatment, or appointments, only ask if you are really interested and paying attention.  I can't tell you how many times friends act annoyed at ME when they find out we had been to the doctor, or had an important appointment or a hospital stay, and they didn't know.  In most cases, I had told them specifically, they just weren't listening, they didn't write it down or make a mental note...and even if I hadn't told them, they should not act annoyed.  It is almost impossible to remember who you've told what, and to have to apologize, well, it's just silly. Always, always, always cut the person with cancer and those close to them,
 major slack.  

Do not ask children of the cancer victim questions all the time.  My 16 yr. old does NOT want to talk about it... neither does my 23 yr. old, or my 26 yr. old for that matter.  It's perfectly acceptable to say, "How's your dad doing?"  If they say fine, leave it at that. If they want to talk, they will continue the conversation. Let it be their choice.

So what's been one of the hardest things about going through cancer together? Somedays Scott and I are going along fine, happy, content.  We will walk in church, a party, a wedding, or otherwise happy event, and we are BOMBARDED with questions.  It's like we've become "the couple with cancer"... that is not a title I want to carry.  People tend to do this to me, not Scott, which is understandable.  Sometimes I'm cornered, and I have to answer the exact same questions from 10 different people in a matter of 15 minutes... I am in tears by the time it's over.  I feel sometimes like going underground, and reemerging at a later date.  I do not want to talk about it all the time. What bothers me most about this, is I THINK I'VE DONE IT TOO!  Well, no more.  In the future, when I hear someone's been diagnosed with cancer or some other sickness, I will send a card, stating how sorry I am, that I care about them, and I am thinking and praying for them.  Then I will tell them that I'm not going to ask about it every single time I see them.  A smile or a hug conveys the same message, without putting the person on the spot.  Emails and private inbox messages on Facebook work as well.  Sometimes I get text messages while we are at an appointment or whatever.  Those are shows the person really knows what's going on, and they are thinking about you, without you having the burden of having to answer your phone.

  Trust me, if someone needs or wants to talk, it's better over lunch or in private, NOT at a party or public gathering. 

So what does help, in my humble opinion?  Cards do mean a lot.  They are a breath of fresh air.  For years people have sincerely asked what they can do... number one, prayer.  Number two, if you think of something that you think would be nice, just do it!  Most people feel silly asking for help.  We have not really needed 'help' so to speak, but one afternoon a friend called, and told me she had dinner ready, and could she drop it off at the door in 15 minutes (she did this again the following week).  She said she would not need to come in, and that the dinner could be eaten tonight, tomorrow, or frozen for later.  It meant SO MUCH.  Not long after that, we started accepting meals (or restaurant giftcards) twice a week from friends from church, while we are traveling daily for radiation.  It has been a great help, more than I ever realized.  Without that first person doing it though, without asking, I would have never realized what a burden lifter that would be.  Another tremendous help are friends and family offering to bring my daughter home from school.  We are gone everyday when she gets out, so having a ride for her, has allowed me to accompany Scott.

There are probably other things I could say, but I've rambled long enough.  I hope this is read in the spirit intended...just sharing my heart.  I know at the heart of it, people mean well, and I'm not angry or upset with anyone.  I hope this post helps if you, or someone close to you, ever goes through this.  I know this experience has helped me, and has caused me to rethink how I will react to people in future if they get sick.  I am not saying everyone feels this way, but I bet a lot of people do.  Everyone is different, that's for sure.  Some are talkers, some are not, some are private, some are not... no matter how someone reacts, absolutely forgive them, understand them, and try and not take it personally on any level. 
 They are in a really tough spot :).

Thanks for reading... and if you have any personal insight, or suggestions, please leave a comment.  I'm sure we could all learn from each other.

Love, Teri

P.S. On a side note, one evening Scott and I happened on a documentary called Crazy Sexy Cancer.  It was the story of one woman's journey.  Although totally irreverent, and not for children, we learned a lot from it.  I also checked out her Crazy Sexy Cancer book. Her name is Kris Carr, and her website is here if you are interested. 
It is not for the faint of heart :)

Two new You Tubes up over the past week.  Sunless tanning and Brow & Lash Enhancer.
Check it out here.


fanci said...

i have no words.....that's unusual for me.
you said it all and you said it from your heart....well done my friend.

xxxxxooooo fanci

Cathi said...

What I learned from having gone thru this with my two best friends is to treat them as you always have. My friend Sandi once told me that she was so tired of being "sick sandi" she just wanted to be treated as she always had before cancer. Like you said Teri, everyone is different and how we go thru things shouldn't be judged. We do what is best for our situation. Wonderful post and as always you are in my thoughts and prayers. xxoo :)

Jenny said...

Thank you Teri. What dear friends you have that have helped with the "smaller" but most encouraging issues, picking up your daughter, meals and gift cards...what good ideas. Hugs and love to you and Scott.

Sandi L. de Laski said...


You said this so well. I know that I have offended people... because I get soooo tired of people asking about Art (having Parkisons). He will NEVER get better. This is a brain deteriorating disease. People always ask "isn't there a medication they can give him to help." Well, hello - did they not just hear what they just said. Don't you think if there was a medication to help - Michael J. Fox would be on top of the world to tell! Anyway - thanks for sharing, please never hesitate to ask even if it is just for prayers..(Sandi)

High Heeled Life said...

Teri... Your post is wonderful and is helpful to some many people going through life changing events. Much of what you wrote I have faced in dealing with people post accident.

Wishing you a wonderful week!! xo HHL

Priscilla said...

As usual, Teri, you have said it with perfect clarity and dignity.

I just wanted to add that when people do help you, they are also helping themselves deal with the sorrow of seeing you suffer.
When people say "what can I do", or "if there is anything I can do let me know", they really mean it, but it is hard to say, "well I would like you to...". It is so much nicer when people take it upon themselves and just do something - even the littlest thing means so much.
You are in prayers, as usual.

Natasha said...

I truly value these words of wisdom and will certainly try to follow your advice. Your opinions come from the heart and have really made me realize that too often I haven't seen things from other's view points. You really are an amazing lady.

Blessings and best wishes always,

Patricia said...

This was really useful Teri - so often we just don't know what to do or say. Thank you.

myletterstoemily said...

i feel like such a cad but am so grateful
for you to help me understand how to
be a better friend. nothing is better
than a card, except a delicious home
cooked meal, maybe.

you have been very brave and such an
inspiration . . . and very sexy, i might
add. :)

char said...

Great post Teri, well said.

A Tale of Two Cities said...

So late in commenting on this, I know, but I wanted to read it when I had some time to savor the words and take them to heart. I have found much of what you have said to be so very true, and I'm just basing that on friends who have had cancer. I'm saving your advice, and will share it with others who might benefit from such wise, wise words. Hope Scott is being encouraged by some positive results.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I saw your blog listed on another one and so I decided to take time to visit. I used to live in Florida but now live near Seattle in the Northwest. Still have family in Central Florida. My Mother had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma three times. Beat it twice. I lived in Florida the first time she got it and drove her to all her appointments at MD Anderson in Orlando. Going through treatment for cancer changes your world...after that, you know you can do anything. Just wanted to say that I know firsthand what you are going through and you and your family are in my prayers. I enjoyed seeing your is like you are visiting with us. Thank you for sharing all your favorite things with us. Have a beautiful day and give your hubby a hug. xoxo Kim

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