A caregiver discusses her wishes for a woman who was recently diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. “Most of all I wish that time will stand still for her, so that she can crawl into bed with her children and hold them as long as she wants to, feeling their bodies curl into hers as they sleep,” she writes.
A friend of mine is creating a wishes jar for a colleague who has been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. The intent is that when her colleague is having a bad day, she can pull a wish out of the jar and read it to boost her spirits. Because my friend knows of my intimate involvement with my daughter’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, she asked me if I would like to add a few to the mix.
Easier said than done.
Because of my experience, I know how so many of the well-intentioned comments people make that they think are supportive do not make the person with cancer feel any better and can actually make them feel worse. Many of the remarks come out of not knowing what to say to someone whose life has just been turned upside down because for the most part we are not taught how to manage our own emotions, our own fears and our own lack of understanding when speaking to someone who has encountered tragedy.
My daughter, Adrienne, heard so many times statements like “You got this,” or “Your positive attitude will see you through this,” when the speakers had absolutely no idea what “this” actually consists of.My child didn’t see herself as an inspiration or a warrior. Many times, she felt like a rag doll being dragged through a field on a rope attached to a wildly galloping horse, helplessly bouncing along the ground hoping that at some point the beast would stop to grab a drink of water. So when she was called those things it often made her feel like she wasn’t living up to expectations, like she was failing the people in her corner. As a result of that understanding it was very important to me that any wish I sent did no harm.
I told Adrienne at the beginning of our year together that all I wanted was simply that she would live, that the treatment would work, and by the luck of the draw it did. I didn’t have to deal with hearing that her cancer had metastasized, so I am one of the people out there who doesn’t actually know what my friend’s colleague’s “this” is other than what I have learned from the young women in my life with metastatic breast cancer who have been graceful enough to give me a glimpse into their existence. And they have taught me so much.
So what do I wish for this woman?
I wish that her body will be able to tolerate the multiple treatments that will be thrown at her cancer hoping to keep it at bay just a little while longer.
I wish that mRNA research, some of which started as a potential avenue to battle cancer, will be able to benefit from the leaps and bounds that science took fighting the pandemic.
I wish that the people around her will educate themselves about metastatic breast cancer so they know that she will never be cured and will never be done with treatment, so they don’t ask her those questions.
I wish that she will find exactly the right thing that will help her manage the side effects that so often come with the medications that she will have to take.
I wish that she will have some choices, some REAL choices, so that she will feel a sense of power over the beast.
Most of all I wish that time will stand still for her, so that she can crawl into bed with her children and hold them as long as she wants to, feeling their bodies curl into hers as they sleep.
But of course, I couldn’t put any of these wishes onto a piece of paper for her to pull out of a jar when she’s feeling blue. So what I wrote was this…
I wish for you that the roller coaster slows down once in a while just enough that you can open your eyes, take a long easy breath, and maybe, just maybe, sometimes even get off.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
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