The Rude Awakenings of a Chronic Insomniac

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.

This entry was posted in Abuse, breast cancer, Cancer, Caregiving, Coping, Death, Friends and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Rude Awakenings of a Chronic Insomniac

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Rude Awakenings of a Chronic Insomniac | What Cancer Brings --

  2. James K. Blaylock says:

    Truly no one can see through our eyes unless they have first worn our skin. We’re all on a journey, and it seems that the heartache never really ends. We are forced to take the good with the bad. But hopefully there’s more happy days than sad ones.

    That’s so very rude and coldhearted for anyone to even think… much less utter aloud. If your father gave you something… it simply meant he wanted for you to have it. Because you are his daughter and he cared enough to bestow it unto you, Rach.

    No matter what walk of life we come from there will always be negative people, but there’ll be the worthy people as well. We just have to learn to judge which ones we’re keeping close. Sometimes snakes take a minute to figure out thanks to their clever make-up.

    Simply be glad that things seem to be leaning towards betterment, and follow that path. Stay focused and unjaded if at all possible. Although the glass is always lingering and looking to fall down upon our lives. Leaving us as scarred as we allow it to make us.

    It’s good to be awake, but don’t allow for sleeplessness to daze you. Take your rest were and when you can. Let the healing sink into you heart, head and bones. Be blessed.


    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Thank you for making that very heartfelt comment James. You offer so many words of wisdom here.

  3. Linda says:

    Rachel, powerful, powerful post. The fact that you are able to write all these insults so well, and with forgiveness, shows the depth of your compassion.

    Cancer IS the dividing line. In dealing for 18 months with my father’s slow, inexorable slide to death from a sinus cancer, I found kindness from the most unlikely people, many strangers to my father before he fell ill. Callousness, on the other hand, often came from those we thought we should trust. I am still reeling from the neglect of his caregivers at one of the ‘best’ comprehensive cancer centers in the world (the physician, the clinical trial coordinator, and, sadly, the nurses). I focus on the hospice workers, the newspaper deliverer, the neighbor, the nutritionist, and so many others whose simple acts and kind words made the awful people tolerable.

    Thank you so much for featuring my story — I am humbled and honored. I write about health and how it affects us, and we affect it; health is a universal, but one we take for granted until we or those we love no longer have it. I have to clarify that COMFORT OF FRIENDS is fictional; however, it is based on true events involving friends of mine. the betrayal is true.

    Thank you for sharing your journey, Rachel — you’ve certainly empowered a lot of people with your words. Peace…

    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Thank you for the comment Linda. Your story is amazing and thank you for allowing me to link it to my post.

      Cancer definitely is a dividing line. Thank goodness for the people who have helped to make this as positive experience as possible. It’s tough not to focus on the negative things, but somehow we’ll muddle through.

  4. Diana says:

    There is only ignorance on the part of those who speak without having experienced what you or any other caregiver have been through. Sadly, this will not keep them from forming an opinion. THAT is what it is, it’s just an opinion and they are entitled to it. They should NOT have offered it without asking if it was wanted. But, that is what ignorant people do. We can only hope they think before they speak to anyone else like that. If they don’t, they might get put in their place when they don’t expect it. Just move on and know that those who really know you and Mom, love and support you. It is now time to heal and not dwell on the bad memories but focus on the bright future and that you have survived along with Mom, though in a different way.

    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Thank you for the lovely comment, my friend. Very true. I’m doing that already. Writing this post was helpful.

  5. Judith Boyd says:

    Thank you for this post. I’m sitting here with tears flowing down my cheeks; your writing has resonated with several experiences that I’ve had over the past five and one half years as my husband and myself have been on our “cancer journey.” I now see that I’m not alone. Your site is very beautiful and I am so grateful to have found it.

    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Judith, this experience is definitely an eye-opener in so many ways. I am thankful to have met other caregivers and heroic cancer patients and survivors, and along with the constant blessing of my friends who continue to support and put up with me. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to have you tell say that my writing has touched you.

  6. Carol says:

    I know that those words hurt like a knife in your chest, but try to remember that those who love you and your Mom try to stamp our the ignorance of others in our own way. Those words are not loving so they should not be given the power to hurt you. There is no way to erase them, but the loving-kindness of those close to you hopefully will block out the unkind words. Hopefully you can be comforted by the love we feel for you. The unkind words do not go unnoticed by our great God, but he is the one that will erase the hurt from your heart and give you comfort.



    • Blackbirdsong says:


      Well now I’m the one who has tears streaming down my face. Your words have really touched me, my dear friend and sister.

      Love you too

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