“Don’t open the door, unless you know who it is!”
We teach our kids, “not to open the door to strangers”, we are quick to signal a no thank you, not a good time or not interested, to a knock from a salesperson, donation collector or the annoying kid down the street. When a loved one knocks, we open the door wide.
When Cancer knocks, we don’t know who it is, what it wants or how long it will stay. Cancer’s visit brings chaos, commotion, change and disorder. It creates sorrow, sadness, pain and fear. Cancer is the uninvited, unwelcomed house guest and you can’t limit the stay, set up it’s boundaries, tell it you have things to do, or show it the door.
When Cancer visits, it will be in your business, and always looking over your shoulder. It will interrupt the time with the kids, the straightening of the home and work that has to get done to pay the bills. Cancer will meddle in family affairs, affect the dynamics of the home and be the guest that everyone is praying will leave.
When Cancer knocks at the door, you can’t pretend you’re not home, pull the blinds closed and hope it will go away. Cancer, just makes it’s way in. Cancer is awake in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. It takes up all the space and never shuts up. When Cancer visits, your babies will cry longer to annoy it and your toddlers will act-out or throw tantrums in hopes to make it leave. Your teenagers will not want to be around Cancer because they are pissed off at its presence and embarrassed of its stay. It’s company exhausts a spouse who is barely managing to keep it all together and burdens the sick family member with sadness, remorse and regret, for letting the damn Cancer in.
Now that Cancer is here, everyone comes to visit. The bell rings, and the door gets rapped, a lot. People peek through the curtains or sneak their way in. Cancer brings more people, more intrusion, more voices, more change. It may bring someone to help with the Cancer and the home, the kids, the laundry, the dishes, the schedule, the doctor’s appointments, the tears, the pain and more. No one wants the Cancer, but families with Cancer need the Help. Sometimes, someone, selflessly steps up to take on the cancer. When that someone knocks, it will be a blessing.
I wanted to share some advice for that special person helping someone they love, with cancer. I hope these tips Help.
1. Thank yourself. Not many can take on this role. Embrace your strength, and the graces you will need.
2. Be the advocate for your loved one with cancer. If you are a part of medical visits, take notes, be an active listener.
3. Do not expect to know what to do or how to act with cancer around. No one does. Be easy on yourself.
4. It’s ok to say the word cancer. Don’t pretend or act like it is not present, take it face on.
5. You will not know what to say sometimes; so don’t say anything.
6. You will know when the visits from guests are too much. Don’t let them in. A polite “Now is not a good time” is ok to say.
7. People will talk. You don’t have to listen. Do not engage in conversation that you don’t have the energy to participate in. Your resources are limited.
8. Follow the path of the loved one with cancer. Respect and honor how they are handling the situation. Just remember, anyone with cancer, handles it the best way they can.
9. People with cancer believe in their doctors, decisions and the hospitals they chose. Believe with them.
10. Don’t step over a sick parents willingness to stay involved and parent in any capacity they are able to. If they are present and have a voice, don’t shush them, quiet them or tell them you “have this”. If they choose to participate, want to engage or help their children, let them.
11. There will be times that you can step away, step back or move out of the room. Take advantage of those times.
12. Parents with cancer may be limited in the day-to-day activities with their children. Include them, ask them, inform them and share with them news or events about the kids, good, bad and indifferent.
13. You may want to discipline the children, correct them and decide what is in their best interest. Bite your tongue, mind your tone and hug them, hold them, love them.
14. People will ask what you need. Tell them. They want to help and you will need it.
15. I once overheard my father so eloquently say, “You don’t know shit from apple-butter”. When Cancer visits, no one knows shit, or butter, or milk for that matter. It’s ok if you don’t either.
There is so much to share but hopefully these bits of advice will support you in caring for your family or loved one with cancer.