The problem with writing a blog is that there’s so much to write about - and never enough time to communicate everything on my mind. And then there’s the days I just can’t bring myself to open up and make myself vulnerable again. But here I am again….and today I have it on my heart to talk about something that I’m pretty sure the world needs to hear.
I was talking to my friend Kiri the other day who is also a breast cancer victor (I say victor not survivor for obvious reasons), and we started talking about our families and the different challenges and concerns we had regarding them, especially Maori and Polynesian families - but our line of thought was all inclusive.
Excuse me for stating the obvious, but cancer doesn’t just concern the person who has it….cancer is a disease shared by the entire whanau (family).
Can I tell you a common truth that most of us battling cancer are painfully aware of? We may be the ones that are sick, but we are more concerned about our families than ourselves. While everyone is bee-lining for the sick person, the sick person can’t bring herself to take her eyes off her fifteen year old daughter who needs more than a sick mother right now. She needs laughter, fun, friends, someone to talk to, and LIFE. She doesn’t need to get hard and pretend to be someone or something that she’s not just for the sake of putting on a brave face.
This sick mother can’t stop being overprotective of her 5 year old little boy who may be an expert at driving her up the wall but who will expertly pull him down when she is physically unable? Who will walk in my painstaking footsteps to ensure he is well looked after and journeys well at primary school with his special needs?
This sick wife is in awe of her husband who seems to have discovered super hero powers as of late, but worries about the deeper layers of his own heart and need to share his realities outside of my earshot. It’s not easy being the head of the house at the best of times let alone a husband to a seriously sick wife.
As a collective, this family does not need to hear about cancer all the time, does not need every conversation (whether it be between themselves or with other people) to be dominated by the subject of cancer, do not need to revolve their entire lives around their sick wife/mother, and does not deserve their own needs ignored in favor of this greedy illness. These are just a few of my concerns as a wife, mother and soldier in this war against cancer.
Every family fighting cancer has different needs - some more than others, but my point is, its not always about the sick person. It’s very easy to make it about yourself during these difficult times which is not always a bad thing in moderation. We definitely need time, space, and opportunity to ensure we women are taking good care of ourselves. The support that is currently available for those diagnosed with cancer is really good, especially the breast cancer support network. They are quite simply amazing…especially the ones in Tauranga who zero in and focus on the woman who is battling. We women appreciate that more than words can express sometimes, but does anyone want to know what the secret recipe is?
It’s this: If we didn’t have to worry about our families well-being we would fight harder, with more energy, and not be distracted with debilitating worry whilst on the battlefield. We would come out the other end physically, psychologically, and emotionally stronger and able to pick up the reins of everyday normal life a lot quicker and easier.
So whether you’re a family member, friend, church community, funder, supporter – whatever. Remember firstly that if one whanau member suffers, the rest of the whanau suffers. Acknowledging and planning for that in practical ways without allowing the subject of cancer to dominate everything is key. Just some friendly advice to people who genuinely care :)