Almost every self-help guide to coping with a cancer diagnosis recommends surrounding yourself with a good support network. Of course I couldn’t imagine how I would cope without mine. They have been extraordinarily supportive and helpful.
What no one seems to tell you, however, is that no matter how wonderful your partner/parent/child/friend is, you still need to walk that path alone. One friend described her role as being my sherpa. I still had to climb that mountain, but she could be there helping me haul my stuff and finding the paths.
There is a limit to what they can do, however. Your support person cannot be your stunt double, standing in for you when you have to walk around a crowded waiting room half-naked in one of those blue hospital gowns or when you have to undergo a painful and scary procedure. You are really in it alone.
I wonder if this is a universal feeling? What have your experiences been? What is it like to be a support person for someone who is dealing with cancer and being on the “outside”?
It would be a very interesting avenue to explore through a creative work. There are complex feelings of isolation, separateness and impatience with other people’s inability to really understand what you’re going through. There are conflicting feelings of not wanting to talk about your illness because you feel that no one else can really understand and frustration that no one is asking how you are.
I think I hear a poem coming on…..