Colon Cancer Sucks Ass

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

"Hey! Why Does She Get Handicapped Parking?"

With her scars and port-a-cath covered, Christy walked around looking like any other young 20 or 30-something. She preferred being treated as "normal", and she tried VERY hard to appear as such. Often she even refused to ask for help, and those around her wouldn‘t even realize her need until they found her, for example, passed out on the floor in her room. She was overwhelmingly stubborn that way. An admirable, yet frustrating quality for those of us wanting to be a source of support for her.

Often this exterior “normal” facade conflicted with the illness and battle raging inside Christy’s body and mind. She resented the fact that she couldn't always just push through the pain and side-effects of chemo and surgery, but even she had to admit at certain points along her cancer journey that she just couldn't do it all -- and she couldn't always hide how miserable she was feeling at times. Another fact she resented.

During the times when Christy did work up the courage to ask for help, she found some people would actually question her need for "special treatment." Like wheel chair service at the airport -- or the extremely coveted handicapped parking spots: "She's, like, in her 20's! She has her youth and her legs seem to work just fine, so what does she need handicapped parking for?"

Casual observers and individuals ignorant to the severity of her illness lacked empathy and would quickly pass judgment. This kind of took its toll on Christy after awhile -- finding that balance between wanting to appear "fine," but also wanting acknowledgement for her private suffering and personal achievements in the face of mortal obstacles.

I believe most would agree that few are more deserving of kindness, patience and compassion than an individual fighting for his/her life on a daily basis. But how are we on the outside to know the true reality of another's inner experience? Especially when "normal" and "fine" is all we can see?

I guess the message here boils down to the "Golden Rule". Everyone has their own struggles and pains. So, have an open heart and an open mind...and be patient with yourself and others. Life demands it.

Also, for those of you struggling with cancer -- or any chronic illness -- please learn to open up to your close friends and loved ones. Believe me, we want to help, but we don't have the faintest idea how. So, share those burdens! Trust me when I say that, denial aside, we are quite aware of your illness and are scared of its possible consequences. Sharing these mutual fears can be so cathartic for all. Speaking the fears out loud can also suppress the power of those fears over your life. Honesty and openness can be so empowering in the face of chronic or terminal illness.

I never really knew Christy until she became ill and was finally able to discuss her deepest hopes, fears and thoughts regarding life, death, the future, relationships, dreams, family, etc…. It is these privileged conversations that stay with me to this day. I cherish them. They give me something to contemplate since her passing, and I find they often make me smile fondly at her memory.

~Mandy

3 Comments:

  • At 5:42 AM, Anonymous Kelly said…

    Reading your story reminds me of an author in a very similar situation. Alesia Shute is a childhood cancer survivor and wrote her story, and has dedicated her life to fighting this disease. Check out her website becaue the two of you might be able to help each other. www.everythingsokaybook.com

     
  • At 7:32 AM, Blogger Melissa said…

    Can I have your permission to copy your "Hey! Why Does She Get Handicapped Parking?" for a project I am working on? I will give you full credit. I'm a colon cancer fighter putting something together in hopes it may resemble a book, in blue, for those like us!

    Please, please, and thanks thanks!
    MelissaB

     
  • At 3:29 PM, Blogger Christine said…

    I am sorry but I haven't looked at Christine's blog in a long time. If it is not too late you certainly can quote her.
    Jan
    Christine's mom

     

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