Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Dealing

I have a very good friend whose husband is dying of cancer. I feel almost selfish saying this, but I don't know how to deal with this. Me. Like *I* am the one I should be worried about. I know in my head, that feelings are just feelings - not actions - so I shouldn't really feel guilty. But I do.
I am having a really hard time with all the events surrounding his death, and I don't know how to handle it. That's not what I'm concerned with, though. I am concerned because, why am I crumbling about this? What's going on here?

I have been friends with Angie for over 20 years (click on the Keep Believing button on my sidebar to see her story). She is very much like a sister to me. Even though we don't talk every day, and even though there have been times that we've gone months without talking, I think about her every single day. She has gone through the roller coaster of cancer diagnosis, treatment, recovery, and living with the disease for over 11 years. I so want to be there for her - but that feels really selfish. In some way, I feel like I will only be useful if I can actively do something for her. I want to be a friend she can turn to if she needs to talk or cry or laugh, but she is blessed with a wonderful tight-knit family. Those folks are her stability. She is also an amazing Christian. I say that, not because one Christian is better than another, but rather because through her journey of cancer, she has not lost sight of who is in control and who is to be praised. Instead of cursing God, which so many people do when faced with a crisis, she has embraced His love. Instead of questioning, "Why us? Why now?" she has asked, "What can I learn from this? How can we glorify God with our lives?" So, besides having her family for support, she also has her faith. Those gifts won't be a guarantee that she won't falter, but they certainly are the net to catch her when she falls.

So, like I said, I'm not dealing with this well. I keep imagining what life would be like looking down the barrel of cancer. I keep trying to imagine what I would do if I were in her shoes. At the same time, I can't and I don't want to. I am so sad for her, I don't want this to be happening to her. I want to help her and support her, but I also don't want to get in the way, imposing myself into her life when the people she really wants and needs are the people in her family. I know it's okay to be sad about this, and surely this hits very close to home. But at the same time I realize, it is not ME with cancer, or MY husband. It isn't even MY best friend with cancer but rather the husband of my friend. I even feel selfish being sad, like I should have a better control of my emotions.

I've never had anyone really close to me die. The closest was when my infant niece died from SIDS when she was 3 1/2 months old. But I was only 17 at the time, and while I was so sad for my sister at the time, I wasn't even really close with my sister until many years later. It is really only now, as an adult and a mother, that I have considered the full scope of losing a child. And now, at the prospect of my very dear friend becoming a widow, that seems just too much for me. I want to take her pain away, just like when one of my children are hurting and I feel so HELPLESS that I can't do it. And I don't want to be sad for Angie because she has enough sadness around her. I want to be strong for her so that she doesn't feel like she has to be strong for the people around her or for herself.

I just don't know what to do. I feel like I am watching life through a television screen, and I know there is going to be a sad ending, and I just want to change the channel or look away but I can't because it's all really happening. I want to stop it somehow but I can't. And the thing that makes me so MAD WITH MYSELF is that Angie and Brian seem to be handling it all so very well, and what does that say about me? Here I am, completely removed from the consequences of cancer, and I am a complete mess.

So, if anyone has had someone they love live through cancer, especially someone so young, please tell me how you dealt with it. Because I really am not dealing very well.

11 comments:

Eudea-Mamia said...

Oh how I wish I could help you. I too have been in your shoes. My experience has a happy ending, so far, but we discussed what would she have liked had it not.

I think your friend and her husband seem to be handling it better because they have action - the doctors, the day-to-day things. You are far. I too felt helpless and useless frankly, until I told that to my friend. (She was the one fighting cancer). She simply asked me to pray. And so I did, every single day, every hour that I could. It helped me feel more involved.

Her doctors told her she's a walking miracle. So maybe I helped in some way.

I would ask your friend what she needs - she may not want to hear "I'm sorry" again, she may need you to help run interference. She might just need someone to sit with her, even if it's just on the phone.

I imagine what she really needs to hear, is that after the innevitable comes to pass, after all the shock washes away, she will need someone to be OK with her when she laughs, not to treat her with kid gloves, to talk about her husband to keep him "alive." Well meaning friends will give her space, or won't know what to say so they just won't say anything. You be there then.

Prayers for your friend's family and for you.

Em

The Nice One said...

Wow.

I can't even begin to imagine what your friend is going through. Or the feelings you may be having, as her friend.

I think the only thing you can do is stay strong for her, but also mourn for yourself. I know, easier said than done.

Hugs.

sassy stephanie said...

Ew. I don't like to advise b/c everyone is so different in these situations, but I can tell you where I am right now.

My 38 yr old hubby has cancer. Good news: God is good. He has an excellent chance of making it not only through this, but putting it past him and hopefully never to look back again.

I didn't want to talk endlessly about it at first. I specifically alerted family and friends to the news and asked that they give us time to ourselves to digest it. I just couldn't deal with the "I'm sorry" convo over and over. I have only two friends that I talked to for three weeks when we first found out. They listened to my fears, my sobs and just where there for me. Told me how much they loved us and would be there for anything we needed.

I don't like asking for help. Never have. Very hard for me to do. One thing you may consider: make dinner and bring it over. Little things like the relief of not cooking for a night are even a blessing. And it shows you want to help, you do care, and you are there for them. And of course, pray. Pray for him, for her, their family and their friends. You are one of them. Nothing selfish about praying for your own peace with this.

Hmmm...sorry. All this blah blah blah from me. Looks like I just barfed in your comments!!

stephanie (bad mom) said...

Stu's mom, the best possible mother-in-law ever, died two years ago after fighting ovarian cancer for four years. I had the exact feelings you are now having, especially this one - I can't and I don't want to.

I find myself still having those selfish feelings - I'm angry for my loss and Stu's loss and my kids' loss and my father-in-law's loss. But I pull out of it with the reminder that she (and we) had/have a faith that ultimately brought feelings of relief.

Harder than anything I've experienced, ever, that's for sure.

Sending prayers your way*

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

I am so sorry I missed this!

I am saying prayers to help you deal. I wish I had some advice but all I can offer is support :)

Lynette said...

I've lost friends and family to cancer! I hate cancer! I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! But then again, I've never come across anyone who is fond of it either.

I realize she has a tight knit family, people are there for her as well as God. But one thing I know that would be nice..pick up cards, send them every so often....once a week, one every other day...whatever. As a blogger, I'm sure you understand that sometimes WRITING your thoughts and feelings is truly easier than speaking them, right?

I lost my infant son, oh 20 years ago, but the one thing I do remember the most....cards. The thoughtful cards. They could be just a blank card on the inside with someone writing "THINKING OF YOU TODAY" and it made me feel good!

Sometimes its the simple things that mean the most:)

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

I love you.

One thing so many people do not comprehend with respect to this is that we have grown closer because of this.

We communicate better becaue of this.

We appreciate more because of this.

We have talked about things most people NEVER talk about because of this.

We are smart and have always been smart about our future plans and financial well being because of this.

There are a lot of blessings.

Angie

Cracker Scraps said...

Loosing my father to colon cancer, now four years ago, was the hardest thing that ever happened to me. He was my cheerleader, my friend. When he was ill we were also transferred far enough away from our home, which was less than a mile from my parents, to a small town in Florida. OK, what am I hiding? We had to move from Altamonte Springs (a suburb of Orlando) to Sebring. Sebring is a good old boy kind of town. Not only was I grieving the loss of my creme De la creme job in nursing at an outpatient surgery center (no holidays, no weekends, no nights), my friends were there, good friends, Christian friends who cared.

Eventually the house next door to us, in Sebring, went up for sale and my father bought the house. He prepared it as much as he could for my mother, bought her a new car, the whole nine yards!

It was my duty to take him back to Orlando once a week for his chemo. This was "our time" we talked, we laughed, we cried. We left nothing unsaid. For that I am thankful.

We expect older people to die, we do not expect cancer to interrupt our lives in the prime of raising children, of living our marriage.

With what you have said about Angie's family being tight, that's a good thing, God has plans for you later. After Angie's husband dies she will need people to help her remember, to be there, to "not treat her with Kidd gloves". If you listen to God he will show you what your role is in this situation.

Don't deny yourself grief over this situation, guilt that your life has not had this sort of burden to bear. Continue to be a friend, a constant to Angie and her family. God will show you your role, just ask Him and believe.

I'm telling you this because I believe it! Not because it seems to be the right thing to say!

I hope you don't think that I "barfed all over your comments!"

Heather said...

Mama~ I'm very lucky to say that I haven't been in your shoes before. I have no advice where that is concerned. It sounds to me, though, like maybe you just need a hug. So, here is a cyber hug and just a little reminder of who our God is. Remember, my sister, that He knows the outcome of this difficult situation and that even though you do not know how to act or respond, He does. Just ask Him. He loves you and Angie and her husband. I'll be praying!

Pollysdotter said...

I lost my 49-year-old husband to brain cancer almost 16 years ago. I didn't need people to be "strong" for me. I needed to know they loved my husband, my children, and me. I needed to know this was a knife wound to their hearts. However, I didn't want them to make me feel pitiful or for them to get so wrapped up in their hurt FOR us that they couldn't stand by us. I just wanted them to care. I saved letters from people who told me how deeply our situation - and ultimately the loss of my beloved - had affected them. Even now, I am more grateful than I can say when people tell me they loved my husband and what he meant to them. So, from my perspective, you are beating yourself up unnecessarily. And I don't know of anyone I wasn't glad to have in my life at one moment or another - family or friends.

Sometimes people made comments like "You are so strong" or "I just don't know how you do it." We just laughed because we knew how flimsy we were. Also, in reality, we had no choice - God gives the grace you need when you need it. And nothing mattered more to either of us than getting our children through it. That doesn't mean we didn't grieve. Life was really, really hard in those 15 months that he lived after his diagnosis. We believed and trusted God, but it was hard.

One of the things I did for my children was to ask our friends over the years to write something about their dad for my boys, at that time ages 21, 16, and 14. That turned into an amazing project, and I made beautiful notebooks for each of them which also contained mementos and a letter from me, their mom. Is that something you could do? You could gather names from her and from her family and friends. And if that is practical or applicable, it might be as much help to you as to your friend. I loved it because it gave me something I could DO.

In any case, just be the same friend you've always been whenever you have the chance. Of COURSE you are wondering how you would handle something like this. Anyone would. But you've only been called to be a friend. And that's all you have to be - up close or standing by. Praying. Knowing this is far from over when he goes to be with Christ. Don’t get hung up on your own thoughts.

I'm sorry this is long, but I hope it encourages you and helps free you from the guilt you are feeling. Your daughter is right too - you also need a big hug.

Donna-Michele said...

ALL your feelings are valid. Be in whatever you need to be... when you can. There are no right and perfect answers. Sometimes a " normal day" is the best gift when you are "expecting" a loss. When kids are involved, someone to take them to the playground so mom and dad have some alone time can be the perfect thing. But ask her.
Something I noticed is that you said Angie's husband is "dying".
Not splitting hairs, but that sounds sad... like an end. Maybe re-frame it for yourself... overcoming an illness...(either by perfect health through death or by recovery), preparing to be with Jesus... or whatever you believe about his transition. Right now he is with her. Take your cues from how she wants to treat this time.
Deal with his death when and if he dies. Any of us could get hit by a truck... blah, blah, blah.
As much as you can, try to be in the moment, and support her AND be gentle with yourself.
Love all, pray for all. Let it unfold as it should and try not to fight it if you can. Keep Being There....no matter how she is.