From the miscellaneous drawer

by Anne Swenson

It’s odd how others respond to changes in one’s personal situations.<BR><BR>When a friend was moving away from Ely she found that people didn’t invite her to gatherings in which she had previously been included. It was as if she had already departed and they had replaced her with other, newer friends.<BR><BR>It seemed that unconsciously they chose to neglect or reject her as she appeared to be rejecting them by moving. <BR><BR>We do strange things unconsciously.<BR><BR>There seemed to be two reactions to me when I had cancer a long time ago. I’ve heard those reactions are common. <BR><BR>Some people avoided me or spoke about me as if I had suddenly stopped being able to hear them. “How is she doing now?” was whispered sotto voce to those around me as if I no longer had my senses.<BR><BR>Others tried to discuss my condition with me as if that was my only current interest. What I yearned for was conversation that would be “normal” everyday topics and expected. We were exhausted from having to explain over and over what the doctors had said. <BR><BR>We knew that if we did want to talk about it all we had to do was open our mouths to people, but that talk wasn’t going to change what we were already doing so repeating and repeating seemed futile and exhausting. <BR><BR>Whether you’re immobolized or mobile patient you know what is happening inside you. You know what hurts and what makes you uncomfortable. You know what you can expect from treatment and what your chances are to return to a normal life. You know what is inevitable for all of us and you come to some resolves about yourself.<BR><BR>The person who knows most of your story is your mate, friend or family member, the care giver. The bewildered look on the face of that person, that constant caregiver, is heartbreaking. Too often that person is the one who suffers helplessly. That person, I’ve often found, is the one who wears herself or himself out with worry and concern to the point of scarcely being able to do the one job they must do: be reliable to the one being treated and in need. <BR><BR>The patient, the sick person, actually has the easy job. He or she just has to work at getting well, at healing what needs to be healed. Rest, food, treatment and medicine are the cure generally.<BR><BR>It’s the other guy who is stuck with the double job of keeping the household running and making sure the patient has good care.<BR><BR>People outside the household react oddly to these lifestyle changes. Some want to hang around even though they are creating an additional burden to the household and tiring out the very person they hoped to help or reassure. <BR><BR>While you can’t totally ignore the new situation realistically, you can make your visits short and cheerful. If you want to help, be specific: “Tuesday I can take you to the clinic if you’d like,” or “How about I mow the grass for you Sunday,” or “Can I pick up some groceries for you?”<BR><BR>One of the nicest things anybody said to me during a recuperative bed stay after an operation was, “I’d like to lay down beside you and just hold you until you fall asleep.” Now that might not be your cup of tea, but at a time when everyone seemed to be treating me like a member of a freak show or an imbecile, the simple and direct acceptance of me and my then-condition was perfect.<BR><BR>I hadn’t lost my senses nor my ability to speak. I just sought normalcy in an extraordinary time. <BR><BR>So if I have something to suggest as we approach this year’s Relay for Life for cancer patients, it would be to remember that a patient is above all a person. Maybe a bit more tired from treatments and healing, but still a person whose feelings and thoughts are an important part of who he or she is. <BR><BR>Let the doctor treat the person as a patient. <BR><BR>Give your attention to the patient, your friend, as an individual with interests, mutual friends and hobbies to discuss.<BR><BR>And don’t forget to be forthcoming with some solid methods of relief for that faithful caregiver.