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Cancer Cooties

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Sorry for the click bait title.  The medical field has not actually discovered that cancer is contagious.  We can all relax…there is no such thing as “Cancer Cooties!”
Or is there?
One of the most common complaints from my clients and friends who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis and treatment isn’t actually the cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Believe it or not, what often causes them the most pain is the response from their family and friends. Or rather, the lack of a response.
Of course, once everyone finds out you have cancer, there’s the initial onslaught of “I’m so sorry’s” and “I’m here for you’s” and the “I had a cousin who had that/survived that/died from that.”
And then, unfortunately for many people, that’s where the caring ends.
If you’re lucky, you have a group of friends and family who step up and get organized and educate themselves about the kind of cancer you have, what your treatment is going to entail, what you’re likely to need, where the gaps are going to be, and figure out how to get those filled…with your help and guidance so you don’t feel disempowered. That’s caring.
If you’re lucky, you have a small village of people to help you with cooking, laundry, childcare, transportation, yardwork, bills, and chores. That’s support.
If you’re lucky, you have friends who will call, leave messages, keep calling and leaving messages even if you don’t/can’t call back, text and keep texting, text you at midnight if they are up so if you’re also up you don’t feel bad about chatting then. That’s not giving up.
If you’re lucky, you have friends who keep track of when your surgery is, who check in on you, who make sure you have food, clean clothes and pajamas, you’re not developing complications.  That’s involvement.
If you’re lucky, you have friends who know about your treatment plan, provide transportation to and from your doctor’s appointments, someone to sit with you while you wait and take notes during those appointments when your brain is on overload. They know when your chemotherapy or radiation treatments begin and end, how you’re feeling about all of it, what the side effects of your treatments are, and what you need to help you get through it.  That’s patient advocacy.
Most of all, if you’re really, really lucky, your friends and family don’t think you have Cancer Cooties. They are okay seeing you. They are okay touching you. They are okay being with you. They are okay knowing what’s going on. They are okay with things not being okay. They are okay with you.  That’s love.
If you’re lucky, your friends and family get that Cancer Sucks.
Sometimes Cancer Kills.
But Cancer is the thing to avoid, not the person struggling to survive a cancer diagnosis and the treatment to eliminate it.  The people who love you won’t act like you have cooties and run away. That’s understanding.
If you get cancer, you’ll understand. But why wait?

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