Tuesday, December 2, 2014

cancer and family

There have been two family members who have dealt with cancer in the last several years. Neither one of the two was I particularly close to. One was an uncle. I remember one day my aunt was crying, worried that he might die. I said the same types of things people say that really are of no help at all. I also had no idea what my uncle was going through, or my aunt and his family by extension. No one talked about it, really. It made it pretty easy on me to avoid dealing with it directly.

The other person was someone else I didn't know very well. When I saw her she didn't seem to want to talk about it. At one point I felt there was something she had said that I thought could be helpful for others, so I said as much. The reception was prickly. I guess I didn't say the "right" thing, so I just let it go.

I now realize I may have seen how *I* would handle dealing with cancer, as I have become what I was suggesting as a possibility to her.

Again, since it wasn't someone I was particularly close to, I was able to escape the reality of what a diagnosis means. It also helped that she, too, did not seem to want to talk about it.

I now feel sad about it. What could I have done differently, if only I had known what was going on? Is there some support I could have offered? Could I have asked more questions? Would I have gotten answers?

I share this because while most of my family knows that I am dealing with cancer, most of the help I have received has come from elsewhere. There are family members who have not asked how I am, or if I need help, or asked how they can help.

In a previous blog post I talked about how awkward things offered and not delivered are. Well this is another awkward piece. I know my family cares about me, but they probably just have no clue what I am facing. There was a part of the family I was telling how difficult things were, and the "usual," unhelpful suggestions were made, but no offer of help. How can I say to them I need help directly? That I need money? If they don't ask, it makes it incredibly, ridiculously hard.

If you have anyone in your life that is dealing with cancer, consider not letting the silence or seeming lack of relationship stand in the way of trying to find a way to help. Consider making it easy on them and being blunt, and talking about the things that people are uncomfortable with. It is possible it will be awkward, but it is also possible it could be welcome and appreciated. I wish I knew how to help you know which, and tell you how best to steer things, but since everyone is different, it is too difficult. The best I can say is "lead with your heart." That is probably the best place to start. And then, keep going, keep checking in...keep trying. As hard and awkward as it is for you, it is probably a lot worse for them. Of course, this can go for anyone in your "human" family, as well.

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