My friend Nan responded to my recent e-newsletter.
“I’ve had a recurrence in my other breast. I had a lumpectomy and am taking medication. Don’t tell anyone. You are one of the VERY few I’ve told – not even my sister or any family members and almost no friends either. ”
Nan and i are b.c. sisters. Such a surprise. We met each other at the Nurse Navigator’s office in our small-town hospital 5 years ago. All we had to do was look at each other to know. No words needed to be spoken. But, of course, we did speak.
No small talk of “What are you doing here?” There’s only one thing any woman is doing there, walking into or out of the Nurse Navigator’s office. We cut straight to the chase. “When’s your surgery?” “When’s yours?”
Even though Nan is “only” a friend of a friend, and i don’t know her that well, she has felt like a sister since that one moment. We went out to lunch last week, where i heard her whole story. You might think i was acting compassionately, but really, it was self-interest that prompted me to ask her out to lunch. Now i understand her more deeply. Like a sister.
And i’m not telling anyone because it’s her story to tell. I can only tell you mine, and the bottom line is that i feel at peace with her decision.
As I was walking into radiation five years ago for my intake, Katherine passed me going the other direction.
The radiation department at Cheshire Hospital has its own outside entrance and parking lot. If you’re walking down the radiation hallway, you are not going to meet stray people. You’re going to meet people who are there for the same reason you are.
“Katherine!” I exclaimed “What are you doing here?”
“Oh, I have bladder cancer,” she said. “What about you?”
“I’m here because I had a lumpectomy two months ago,” I said. “I’m getting my tattoo marks for radiation today.”
“I don’t think I’m going to do radiation,” she said. Continue reading “Bundle of Energy”
I gave a copy of Breast Cancer Meets Mindfulness to my friend Lenore. A month later, she admitted she hadn’t been able to open the book because—she eventually realized—she felt she might get cancer if she read about cancer. She thought, irrationally, that cancer might be contagious.
When she shone the light of reason on that subterranean belief Cancer is contagious, Lenore was able to realize the ridiculousness of the thought that was driving her emotion of Hunh-unh. I don’t want any of that. Get me out of here. I don’t want to read about cancer. I don’t want to think about cancer.
She was able to relax enough to open the book, which she now thinks is a gem.
Lenore’s superstitious belief might explain why some of our friends drop off our radar screen when we receive the diagnosis of cancer. Those friends who don’t call, don’t write, or don’t visit may fear the “contamination” of a cancer diagnosis.
Shunning is an age-old practice of creating social distance for one reason or another. This distance really says more about the friend than about the person with the cancer diagnosis.
When friends drop back, this is our opportunity to practice self-compassion toward our self as we miss that dear friend. And it’s an opportunity to practice compassion for the friend who may superstitiously think that cancer is contagious.