During these last 18 months, I have heard so many stories from many people diagnosed with cancer about how hard it has been.
Being diagnosed with cancer is never easy, the diagnosis can be shocking and frightening. I cannot imagine going it alone though. What I mean by this, is going to appointments by myself going to treatment on my own or walking to surgery with no one to lean on. Hearing the words, the team of doctors is telling me with no support person by my side to hold my hand. You are already so alone in your head, but now, with the pandemic, you are physically alone as well.
When I was diagnosed, my support person was at every appointment. He dropped me off for my surgery, stayed in the waiting room, and was there when I woke up. Now, the patient is dropped off, walks through the hospital halls alone, goes into surgery alone, and wakes up to no one with a smile or love in their eyes. If there is any amount of hospital stay, the patient is alone. No visitors, no spouse, no friends, no one is allowed to be there. I understand this from a safety/ hospital point of view, but I cannot imagine it. It seems unacceptable. There must be some exceptions when faced with a disease and a surgery where so much could go wrong.
During treatment, I always had my people with me. I did not attend one chemotherapy session by myself. In fact, some days, I wished I was alone so I could just sleep. But the support was there, in the room with me, and looking back I am so grateful. What a horribly vulnerable time in my life, my support people got me through the treatment, helped me through cancer.
The single most important aspect of having cancer, other than living, is having a support system. This group of people help you spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Those are all parts needed when diagnosed with cancer. That diagnosis affects every aspect of your being regardless of how you categorize them.
So, if you are trying to figure out how to help a friend, just be there. Listen, accept that you cannot understand what they are going through, don’t offer guidance. Don’t relate your stories of feeling shitty to what they are going through – just simply be there.