The following post is a bit unusual from me. Buckle in, brace yourself. I was going to call it ‘go fuck yourself’ but thats not nice. And my mum wouldn’t be proud.
A mum I met during treatment, who now very sadly has a daughter entering into palliative care, asked me to write about this. I could never find the write words or feeling for it. I wanted it to be honest and felt I didn’t have enough experience to say something honestly.
Today I experienced some ‘bullshit’ myself. Another mum, who’s son is in remission, agreed with my recent feelings which I shall now try and explain below.
There seems to be something that affects all parents of cancer kids: superfluous comments from superfluous people that are frankly disingenuous.
This is an acute side effect of the situation. Or to put it another way, your bullshit threshold is much lower when you are faced with a strong sense of losing your baby/child. And before you jump ahead, it wouldn’t be fair to say that Cancer Parents are ‘over-sensitive’. I think you’ll find that they are actually very tolerant as they appreciate how difficult it is for anyone to understand their situation. Today my bullshit-o-meter was set at low.
Example today: in response to a ‘congratulations’ from me, then some back and forth chat and a ‘hope all is well (and better) with you guys’.
Example from the mum above: ‘ [kids name] turned 4 today. Sadly we weren’t able to travel out so we celebrated at the hospital.
Response 1 : ‘Awww that’s such a shame we went to Euro Disney for [Child A]’s birthday. It was amazing and can’t wait to take [expected sibling] when he arrives.
Generic Response 2: ‘Happy birthday. Hope all is well’.
Now on the face of it these might seem like polite and perfectly fine responses….if you were working in a professionally self-absorbed capacity. But it’s ok because ‘Cancer Parents’ don’t give a shit about you either. They don’t expect you to care but when they are being polite and supporting your covertly-overt showing off or happiness milestones, don’t be a self-absorbed idiot back. It’s called empathy.
Let me explain. ‘Hope all is well’.
For a long time now I haven’t been bothered by much that other people have said – and please believe me when I say I’ve heard a lot of bullshit and a fair amount of silence from a few people who haven’t said a thing. I wasn’t bothered by much. I often say ‘it’s ok you don’t need to know what to say. There is nothing to say’. I was occasionally bothered by the silences. Until today.
Today I realised, my holding it all together so well is doing some people a massive favour. It takes a lot of effort to hold yourself together so well in such a situation.
Don’t ever think that it’s easy. Not for a single minute is it ever easy. On one side we have a mother who has a child she will be burying and on the other side we have wonderful remission. In the middle, we have us, not knowing which path life is going to take us on.
‘Hope all is well’ doesn’t cut it with me. If you cared you would already
Nor do Cancer Parents think that the world revolves around them. One thing you realise early on is the world doesn’t revolve around you just because you have cancer in the family. We never thought it did before all this. And we don’t see it like that now either. Our centre of gravity doesn’t aim to pull in mass amounts of superfluous attention. It never has. Our centre of gravity is, much like others, our family unit. The world, life, work, people, friends, family, dogs, cars, birds etc all carry on regardless. And we carry on the fight to keep our kid alive. Life goes on for everybody. Except us.
‘Hope all is well’.
Well, firstly you aren’t asking. Your stating.
Secondly, if you cared even a little bit you would already know.
Thirdly, a cancer parent would rather, if you didn’t care, that you didn’t come out with comments that don’t carry genuine empathy.
As my other mum friend put it;
‘It’s the fact he didn’t even ask, he just said he hoped all was well…it’s dismissive and not good enough, he should be embarrassed but he probably doesnt have an ounce of empathy. If he did, like you say, he’d already know how things are’.
I’m lucky in that I have wonderful friends who care and communicate in the most supportive manner. I’m lucky but not everyone out there is lucky and my Mum Friend wanted me to write something and today for whatever reason I’ve been saddened by it. Today, I know fully what she meant.
Don’t make excuses. If you care, ask. If you don’t, it will eventually make itself known. There is a difference between being too busy in your life and genuinely caring. I personally, don’t want anyone to feign caring. I’m thankful I have people who communicate around me. It would otherwise be very isolating.
This cancer battle is hard enough, it hurts more when you have to engage with self-serving assholes. Because, an asshole is what you probably are.
*And one more thing asshole, it’s ‘you’re’ not ‘your’.