I think one of the more difficult, if not surprising aspects of this journey has been the realization that not everyone you know is going to treat you particularly well. Of all the things I’ve dealt with in the last few months, this has been the one thing that I keep revisiting. I think that’s because it’s so completely unexpected to have certain people in my life, who know what mom and I have been going through, choose to either gossip about us or say some pretty rude things directly to our faces.
Really, it’s not that I think we’re special or deserve special treatment, because obviously I am not the only caregiver in the world, just as my mom is not the only cancer patient. Just the same, if there was ever a time we needed a soft place to land, this is definitely it.
There was the friend who was nasty to me the night before my mom’s first chemo treatment, and then subsequently blocked me from all her social media sites to punish me when I told her she was being a lousy friend. And there was also the friend who likes to make everything a contest – including health related issues – who said to me, “Aren’t you glad you mom didn’t get a skin infection like I did,” as if that in any compares to anything that mom has gone through.
Those are just two examples, and by no means the only ones.
But there is one that I have to share and address because I want you to see how low some people in my life have been willing to go:
One of my friends told me that someone associated with me was wondering if I had gotten close to my dad to get his money. I have to add that the person who told me this has since said they forgot they forgot the particulars of this situation. But it really doesn’t matter, because the damage has already been done.
So consider the next few paragraphs as damage control.
First of all, I visited my dad in the nursing home on a regular basis until my mom became ill and required my full-time care. I did my best to visit him after that, but there were times when I had to trust that the nursing home staff was taking good care of him, and focus exclusively on caring for my mom. I had no one else helping me with her, and she didn’t want anyone else, so I had no other choice.
Second, what money? Even if I was low enough to try to get close to my dad in order to manipulate him into giving me something, there was nothing to give. When my mother and I were forced to put him in the nursing home because he’d become a fall risk and the apartment he was living in refused to let him stay, we had to sign all of his money over to the state, because we couldn’t afford his nursing home care. So whatever he had at that point was gone. There was no will. There was nothing.
What has been said about me is almost laughable, but I’m not laughing. Those words and the judgment behind them have stung me to the core. Obviously, this person has a pretty low opinion of me, and clearly they don’t know me in any real sense. More importantly, unless they grew up with me and was there to watch and see everything I experienced, then there is no possible way that they could begin to understand the complexities of the relationship I had with my father. It was a complex relationship and there were times when the safest choice I could make was not to be around him.
I loved him and sometimes I feared him. It was, what it was and I have nothing to feel guilty about. My father left a mark on my life, and because of that it ruined any chance of us ever having a normal father/daughter relationship. He never got upset with me when I kept my distance and I never felt guilty about it.
After my dad had the stroke that would eventually kill him, I visited him at the hospital as much as I could. My mother wasn’t able to go because she was too weak from her chemo treatments and was she still very susceptible to getting an infection. I had to be completely gowned and gloved to see him, but I was there. But I had always been the one who was there for him throughout the years. When I was a kid there were times when my dad got drunk and he’d cry his heart out. My mother would be fussing at him and he would just sit there crying like a little boy. I was only a child at the time myself, but just the same I’d wet a washcloth and wipe away his tears. I’d say, “Don’t cry daddy,” and he’d hug me. I can’t tell you how many times this happened, because this scenario played itself out a few times over the years. Nevertheless, my kindness never caused my father’s abuse to end, but just the same I was the one who was there to wipe away his tears when he needed me to be. I don’t know why. I’m no martyr. I guess it just felt like the right thing to do.
Just the same, my father always remembered how I had tried to comfort him. Even years later when most of his memories had faded, he always remembered how I used to wipe away his tears. So there I was in the hospital, and I was the one offering him comfort just as I had so many years before. My father knew I was there that day, and he knew I was there with him on the day he died. I’m the last person who ever told him that he was loved, and I’m the person who told him that it was OK to go to sleep and that I’d be there to take care of mom.
He heard me and breathed his last breath just a few hours after I said that to him.
So for someone to try to intrude on my lasts days I had with my father disgusts me. I’m not too happy with the person who told me about this, but I’m glad they told me, just the same. I always like to know where I stand with people, so in essence they were doing me a favor. Because now I know I have another cancer in my life that needs to be removed.
This is going to be a tough one to let go, but I eventually will.
Now clearly I am not the only person who has gone through something like this as part of their cancer journey. I’m sure my followers who are going through their own cancer journeys could add their own stories about similar experiences. In fact, please do.
My writing colleague and friend, Linda Wastila wrote an amazing story about another kind of betrayal that can take place as part of cancer recovery in her story, “The Comfort of Friends,” which I hope you will read.
The bottom line to all this; cancer is the ultimate dividing line. You will either see the best from the people around you, or you will see the worst. I’ve had some pleasant as well as negative surprises in the past year. I will be fine. In fact I am fine, just the same this has been a rude awakening.
So if anyone is out there listening, I’m awake. Now if only I could get some sleep.