Remembering that you are just as important even if you aren't the one with cancer
Before my sister was diagnosed, I didn’t know much about cancer. I knew people who had battled cancer, but it had never truly affected me. I used to think that was because I wasn’t the one with cancer. After going through this experience, I now know that you do not have to have cancer to be affected by it. For though I am not the one who was afflicted with the disease of cancer, it has impacted me in so many ways.
Back in July of 2014, I did not understand how much cancer would have an effect on our lives. My sister was the one being told that she was sick, and so it never entered my mind that the rest of us would also endure much of what she would. Having worked with many cancer patients and their families, I now see how much those around the patient often suffer.
Personally, I just didn’t see the importance of self-care. Or, I didn't understand how people could focus their time on me and my needs when I wasn’t the one who was sick. As I see those traits exhibited in those I work and volunteer with, I better understand how harmful that thought process can be.
While we are not the ones getting chemo and battling the disease inside of us, we experience a large portion of what the patient does. In some ways, we experience more than they do. I took a lot of responsibility on when my sister was sick in an effort to shield her and give her time to cope. As an effect, I ended up carrying a much larger burden than she did throughout her own battle with cancer.
Coping is a word that we hear frequently. It is also a question that is continually asked of us. While our loved one is in and out of clinical settings, life does go on. That can make our job of coping that much harder. We have economic responsibilities, jobs, other family, social lives and sometimes school to maintain. All the while, being a support system for the one that we love. It is never easy, and rarely did I ever feel that I was doing a good job of it.
The thing is, all those things that I listed above, they are just as, if not more, important than being their for that loved one. It may sound crazy or even insane, but that list above; that is living. That is continuing on with your own life despite the tragic reality of cancer being present in life. It is making time for yourself AND for that family member.
It is staying in school, holding down a job, going to concerts or even a movie. Catching a football game or staying at home in your pajamas over always being at the hospital. The thing about cancer is that it changes a person, not just the one who is diagnosed, but also all the people around that person. It may not seem so, but YOU are just as important as the one you love who just so happens to have cancer.