"Hey! Why Does She Get Handicapped Parking?"
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.