Thursday, 22 October 2009

It's my cancer, and I'll cry if I want to

My parents went to see an acupuncturist and a nutritionist and my father is on a new diet. Great. Nothing very physically significant has happened, but, emotionally, it's a whole other ballgame.

This has been bugging me for a couple of days. The optimism. How people keep saying, "you must keep strong and keep him strong and fighting". There is something deeply unnatural to me about being told that you have cancer and your only thought being "bring it on!" It my heart, I believe there is a process and, personally, if it were me, I would not want to see anyone at the moment. I would want to close the door on the world and cry for a little while. Not because I was giving up, not because I was facing death, but just because I am entitled to cry and feel shitty for a little while if I goddamn want to!

The strain of fighting and maintaining the "positive thinking" for the sake of everyone else must be exhausting. And as soon as he stops, people accuse him of giving up. And then the guilt comes. "you don't want to get better. You aren't even trying. You don't love me enough to try". This is speculation, but I am thinking that my father is not the man to give up. But he is the man to take a breath and think for a while. But while he's thinking, people get hysterical. "you're giving up! Stop giving up!"

Again, I am only hoping this is the case. If my mother is right in what she told me as she cried on my shoulder last night, and the light really has gone out from under him, then that's bad. But I am hoping that it's more like the former. "You are allowed to cry, then I am going to goddamn cry!"

My mother asked me about the grief cycle, which I have written about here before. I gave her the list: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. She said "that doesn't seem right. Where does the fighting bit come in?" I said that I thought that came under Anger, but that this model applied to grief, not to a non-terminal prognosis. But I actually thought, my god, I never realised the very strong genetic thread in my family: The need to fix.

I am often accused of trying to fix everything, even things that either can't be or do not require fixing. I have worked to try to get better at accepting situations that are out of my control. I am not saying that it's not great that my mother sent me out to get enough health food for an army in the belief that a proper diet will aid my father's treatment. What I am saying is that this, perhaps, is a symptom of denial of the situation rather than a reaction to understanding it.

"If I do enough things to try to fix this, I won't have to face that it's happening, because it will just go away, thanks to all the marvelous fixing that I have done". It's cancer. It's not just going to go away.

On the other hand, my father is feeling pain in his pancreas, but, we believe that this is the "good pain", the pain that says that the chemo is doing it's job. So even though he spent most of the afternoon in bed, I see this as a good thing.

All the rest is bullshit. Is it just me, or do I keep saying that?


  1. I felt totally helpless when my boss was going through his cancer treatment earlier this year. And I so need to fix things, like you!!

    Do the things you're good at. That's what your father will expect from you. It's his damned cancer, so he has to deal with it his way, but if you can listen without speaking, that may help. Especially if others are trying to 'fix' him.

    It's wrong to say I'm 'enjoying' your journal, but I am thinking of you and I hope it is helping.

  2. Hey Rachie,

    Thanks for this. I have been really bad at responding to comments, so here is a response!

    Am back in London now, so it's all just become much further away. Let's see how the parentals deal without me for a while.

    Thanks for the lovely thoughts. It's nice to see that people read this!


  3. I can't even begin to keep up with your movements - it must be terribly exhausting!

    One other thing that helped me and the boss earlier in the year is that we were able to joke about his cancer. Sounds odd, but we poke fun at everything else, and it helps prick the balloon, as it were.

    Sounds like you're about to hit the part of the treatment when doctors start to go into crazy technical language and everyone has to get dictionaries out to keep up. Try to stick to the pancreatic cancer specific websites and away from google searches. They are unspeakably wicked, so far as health problems are concerned.