Cancer…hopefully not the Final Frontier. These are the continuing voyages of a Cancer Caregiver. Her ongoing missions of caring for a cancer patient through painful and frightening treatments, to seek out hope when hope seems futile, to boldly push herself in ways she’s never pushed herself before.
Throughout so much of this ordeal, I have waged a constant war with myself to remain proactive vs. reactive. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. Since this war will be ongoing, this is a struggle that I, like many cancer caregivers and those who have received a cancer diagnosis, must face.
Certainly, when I first heard the word “cancer” in relation to my mom, my reaction was definitely reactive. At that point, there really was no other reaction possible. I was in shock, and so was she. Mom and I started crying in the doctor’s office and we’re not usually criers, but cancer has a way of stripping you down to your barest emotions.
I can think of no time in my life that felt worse than those first moments or the days that can afterwards. Mom and I were open, raw wounds and the only thing that helped was the comfort from friends, the reassuring words of the medical staff and God’s good grace.
Foolishly I thought when we got through that tough time that things would start getting better, because that’s how people think. We want an escape hatch. We want to believe that beneath every hardship there is a blessing just waiting to be realized. Sometimes that is true, but other times it’s not. Cancer is a cruel taskmaster and it will overtake every aspect of your life, if you let.
That’s where being proactive comes in.
Now naturally there have definitely been tears and moments of fear ever since those first horrible days, but somewhere during the course of all this, I realized that I couldn’t allow myself to remain in that raw, wounded place. I knew there was no way that I could expect to get through the months of uncertainty, fear, surgeries and treatment; meaning I would be completely useless to mom, if I didn’t find some way to be proactive.
I guess this begs the question; but what does proactive mean, or better, what does being proactive mean to me?
Well, I think being proactive means that instead of just reacting emotionally to a situation, that you find some way of reacting logically to a situation. It’s the difference between being Captain Kirk or Mr. Spock. Both have their purpose, as well as their strengths and weaknesses, but sometimes it’s better to lean on the side of Mr. Spock.
I never saw Mr. Spock as only cold and indifferent as much as being contained and controlled. Am I like this all the time? Of course not. When I’m talking with friends who allow me to vent or I’m alone in my room, I sometimes turn into Captain Kirk and allow myself to let my emotions rule me for a bit. However when I’m in the hospital talking to a doctor or nurse, or taking care of mom, I’m definitely Mr. Spock.
It’s about checks and balances really. When Captain Kirk was going off the deep end, there was Mr. Spock to bring him back to earth, or whatever planet they were on, and when Mr. Spock needed to be reminded that he was half-human, there was Captain Kirk with a ready smirk.
Obviously this is a simplified way of looking at either of them, but since sometimes Kirk was called on to be logical about things and sometimes Spock forgot himself and allowed his human side to take over. But this works for me, which is really what this is all about, because it’s about doing whatever I need to do to remain sane.
It would be so very easy to lose it right now since the amount of stress involved in going through this process as either patient or caregiver can be beyond overwhelming. There are ways through it and this is mine. It works for me, but it may not work for anyone else because there is no right way and there is no wrong way. For me, there is Captive Kirk sometimes going off the deep-end, but always finding his way back to save the day, Mr. Spock remaining steadfastly logical even if everything is crashing down around him, and a frightening journey into unknown regions, experiences and triumphs.