Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Letter from a Patient

You've probably figured out by now that I'm not a good patient. I'm not a good non-patient, but as we cross the uncrossable divide from doctor's visits to chemo, well, my not goodness will become even more obvious. 

I appreciate your support. I mean that not as a token thanks that is tacked on to an email reply, but with all my emotional sincerity. I appreciate the emails, Facebook posts, Twitter mentions and first-, second- and third-hand offers of positive energy, prayers and good thoughts. When I check my email and see another friend checking in to send their good vibes my way, I smile inside. It helps me. I don't know how, but I know it helps.

But I'm a guy. That means it's my job to fix things, to make them better, to take care of things. It's my job to be strong, to man up and tough it out. It's my job to solider on when I'm tired, or anxious, or -- and because I'm a guy, I'm not even supposed to write this, when I'm scared. I'll  tell my doctor my symptoms and expect her to help alleviate them. To you, I'll just note my symptoms as an odd curiosity - as another opportunity to earn my look-what-I'm-enduring badge. And above all else, I'll never ask for help. In fact, I'll likely shun it when it's offered. Because I'm a guy. Or more accurately, I'm an idiot.

Sometimes, I need to be reminded of that. I need to be told, "You're an idiot. You need support."
Look, I'm here to say that the physical part of being a patient has been easy -- and let's hope it stays that way. The rest of it is sometimes beyond challenging. My mind works in ways that I understand, but am often unable to change. I wrote months ago about optimism and hope, and how that's my equilibrium, the place where my mind wants to go. When I find myself being weighed down with negativity or anxiety, my mind goes into overdrive, doing  everything in its power to right the ship.

The alternative is we capsize. 

But when wave after wave of emotion  -- anger, frustration, powerlessness, sadness -- crashes into me, it's hard to keep the ship afloat. Often, the way I deal with it is to overnormalize things. Ignore or repress reality and find the normal; find my happy status quo. Today, I woke up, showered, drove to the station, got my coffee from the same place I always do, said hi to my commuter friends and found my seat on my normal train. 

The only difference is: it's not a normal work day. I'm going to chemo.

I started writing this blog with the simple goal of getting thoughts out of my mind. It was a natural reaction for me and the writing has helped a lot. But about 6 months ago, I turned it from private to public, which in itself didn't do anything, until I started sharing my posts on Facebook and Twitter,

Why? Why did I do that? The easy answer is that I thought it might help others who ran into these thoughts. Maybe. But I think sharing is a call for support - and support is a two-way street. It's a contract where supporters offer help and the supportee accepts it. For some of us   -- for me -- that's a lot harder than it should be.

Thank you for your support -- from the little things to the big. As I enter the next phase of this long cancer journey, I hope to be as good at accepting your support, as you are in offering it.