Walking well with someone who is fighting long-term or terminal illness is not easy. My friend Andrea offers one example of how to do it well.
WHO IS THIS WOMAN?If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may have caught a couple “shout outs” to Andrea. When it was time to get a tattoo there were thoughts of getting them together. She is a “fan” of the chemo man purse and somehow sees it as a fashion statement. So, who is this woman?
Andrea and I met when she was in Jr. high. She was a member of the youth group at Maplewood Baptist Church. Andrea was full of energy and we had a great relationship.
At one point she kept telling me about this great Christian Slater movie, Kuffs. I just had to see it. One Saturday she took Nancy and myself to the movies to see it. As the movie opens Slater’s character and his girlfriend dance around their apartment clad only in their underwear. Andrea sat frozen in her seat, head down, eyes up, beat red. She muttered, “Forgot about this part.” We laugh about it to this day. (Okay, I laugh about it.)
I had the honor of performing Andrea’s wedding. It was a special day. As the years roll on our families stay connected.
QUALITY VS QUANTITY
One of the most fascinating things about this cancer journey has been conversations with my oncologist about quality vs quantity of life. Prior to meeting Dr. Saroha, I would have said, “I will take both thank you very much.” There was never any reason to think in such heavy or deep ways. The goal was to have it all, quality and quantity.
From the beginning of my treatment Dr. Saroha has been clear there will be seasons where we will choose quantity on life. In those moments it will be up to me to fight through side effects and labor through whatever treatment is appropriate. At other times we will decide that it is time for a break from all the treatments, time for my body to recover, and heal. Time for my quality of life to improve.
Those have never been easy conversations, but they have become part of my “new normal.” Nancy and I find it much easier to slip into the quality vs quantity conversation than we first did.
WHAT DID YOU SAY?
A few posts ago I mentioned taking a break for “quality” of life sake. In my mind I was clear about what that meant. For those who do not speak in that language on a regular basis I probably could have been a little clearer.
In my case, “taking a break” means stopping maintenance chemo for a season. Monitoring bloodwork, scans and the like while your body recovers from the assault chemotherapy has been upon it.
As soon as there are signs of significant growth in any of my lesions we would start treatment up again. My last “break” gave me a full year chemo free.
Right now, I am skipping one treatment. Giving my body time to recover from some of the side-effects and allowing myself to get into a better place emotionally. Making significant decisions when you are frustrated, weak or agitated is not good. Dr. Saroha and I decided it would be good to skip one treatment, get into a better place physically and emotionally before making any long-term decisions about a full break from treatment.
Walking well with someone who is facing long-term or terminal illness is not easy. When you care for them it is that much harder. A part of us wants to speak into their lives, and yet “what right do we have to speak into their struggle?” How can we speak in a way where we are true to ourselves, honor the person fighting the illness and speak words of encouragement and challenge?
What follows is a text I received from Andrea [I asked, and she gave me permission to share it]. It is perfect. My words about taking a break troubled her. She felt the need to speak something. It was not speaking just to hear oneself speak, it was one of those times the still small voice of Abba Father kept prompting and leading her to call out to me.
Pay attention to the way she says it. Hear how she owns her own struggles and fears, the fact that she may be crossing some imaginary line. Listen to the way she recognizes that our journeys are very different, how she cannot imagine mine. Hear the words of challenge and encouragement.
You have been on my mind since your post last week…ready for some craziness Andrea style??
I first must acknowledge that I have NO business sending this text. NONE AT ALL
But since your post last week I cannot shake a sentence from it and I even waited a week and I still cannot. So, right or wrong, I am sending this.
I acknowledge that this “message” may come from a place of fear deep inside of me. I recognize that I am over-stepping and I full accept I may be grossly incorrect. With all of that said, I must be me and do it anyway.
Last week you said this Friday you were going to talk to your doctor and maybe take a break for quality of life purposes and step back from chemo.
I won’t pretend I understand. I won’t pretend I get how awful chemo must make you feel physically and mentally. The side effects, the all of it.
And I know that what I am about to say sounds jerky. Owning it 100%…here is what I cannot shake…if your doctor believes medically speaking that chemo can continue to keep you here on this Earth…even with the physical and mental side effects, then you need to do it.
Boom! I sent it
Now, put on your man purse and keep going. The world needs you. You are not done. You are bigger than all of this and God has your back.
BOOM! I SENT IT
Reading Andrea’s message brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. I could picture her speaking it to me directly, and I smiled. We used to have heated conversations, all in fun. There would be finger pointing and she would toss around the kind of attitude that only a teenager girl can muster. It all came through in her text.
The tears came as I felt the depth of her caring. I was impressed with the way she expressed it. We so often struggle with what to say to the point of remaining silent. Not Andrea. She listened to the Spirit’s prompting and found her voice, a way to gently and compassionately speak words of challenge, hope and a future into my life.
BOOM! YOU SEND IT
So, who in your life needs to hear from you?
Where is the Spirit gently prompting you to find your voice and speak words of challenge and hope?
How can you speak those words while owning the truth that the individual walks a journey that is not your journey? Even though circumstances may be similar, every journey is unique, and we must honor that truth to truly have a voice to speak into people’s lives.
Andrea has given us all a good example of how to humbly, and with grace speak into the lives of those we love.
Boom! Go forth and speak it.