A good friend is caretaker to her sister who was discovered to have pancreatic cancer recently. Today, my friend and I exchanged text messages throughout most of the day because her sister has started to refuse to eat, refuses to speak to the hospital social worker and is thinking about not going to her next radiation treatment. My friend is convinced that her sister has given up and said that she can handle the attitude but ” I need her to be strong for me.”
While I understand what she means ( and what she doesn’t mean….its not a selfish expectation in other words), i also went through that same mental state in treatment. Its not that we have given up. Its just that we need others to be strong for us for once. At least thats how I felt. I finally screamed out, “For Christs sake, this is not about you!” when my caretakers needed to hear it.
I had always been the family anchor. The person to keep things from falling apart. A devoted mother and wife. My parents had made me a caretaker as a child too. And even though my mom came out to help me, she has hypochondriac tendencies so there was an attempt at role reversal….and much more.
My friends sister has her own family. Her adult kids cannot or will not help her. Her husband works and doesn’t take care of her. She is left alone unless my friend is there. Seeing this at uch a life threatening time can be disheartening in itself.
I explained to my buddy that in all liklihood she feels unloved just when she has the right to expect complete devotion from her immediate family. Instead of getting that, they are back to business as usual. Her life though….its on hold. She sits thinking about how treatment is worse than the disease. About how she’s just buying time- nothing more. About how her odds of living for a couple more years are not worth it if she is going to live in pain that whole time.
I know because that was me. Unlike her though, I cried alot. In between treatments I would wail like a baby to my husband, ” “I’m not going to make it!” And I believed it at the time too.
Its a much deeper issue than what I can explain. Yet I know its a combination of having such a horrible disease, treatment side effects, malnourishment and uncertainty. Any pre- existing issues – emotional, relationship problems, fears, disappointments,etc.- will seem to grow out of proportion too.
It takes a long time to come out of it all too. Its been a few months ince my last treatment and I am still depressed, still anxious. Its a very hard thing to endure or overcome.
Caretakers are a wonder. Most deserve better results from their wards. Yes, we patients love and appreciate our caretakers but honestly, our emotional state during cancer is not completely in our control. Our appetites are not either. We are not being manipulative. Its the nature of the beast.
I am pretty sure too that the cancer patient we are accustomed to seeing in movies is a myth. Courage doesn’t look like an actor in makeup using anger to fight this beast. Anger is a disease too. Courage is climbing up on the radiation platform everyday for six weeks.
As to my friend, i suggested that she speak to the social worker herself, arrange a family meeting and delegate so that the patient feels cared for, not neglected and so that my friend can catch a break too.
On my end of the world:
Had two green smoothies
A quart of nettles, horestail, lemom tea
And I cut way back on sugar today. Thats been out of control.
I haven’t mentioned that I am trying a 30 ” health improvement” kick. Or maybe I did.
Anyhow, off to sleep hopefully.
Have a happy day:)