Monday, January 31, 2011

Lines and overlapping circles

I thought I'd start off with a graph, but not the one I promised in the last post.  I chose not to graph the white blood counts because I do not have access to the counts for the particular cells, just the gross white cell counts.  And there was nothing remarkable about the counts last week compared to pretty much every other week since early November:  slightly below the normal range, but high enough to keep me out of the hospital.  Instead, I chose to graph my platelets, which have been all in a tizzy over this whole chemotherapy thing.  See above.  

While I had powerpoint open, I decided to make another diagram.  I'm calling this Relating to Sickness, and although it is imperfect it will work for what I want to say.  I used to be in the blue circle.  I was quite ignorant of true sickness and what it entailed, and that was fine with me.  But now I have crossed into the red circle (dragging several caregivers with me--sorry about that) and am quite familiar with sickness.  A further category within the sick people is reserved for the super duper sick (either longevity or magnitude of the sickness count, I think), a category with which I am grateful to remain ignorant.  Finally, although formerly sick people are by definition healthy, I'm putting their circle within the sick people circle, because they are in a unique position to relate to the sick people.  Their advice is often appreciated, and the sick people yearn to become "formerly sick" and dole out the advice themselves.  I know I'm looking forward to that, anyway.

I was thinking about this because recently a woman in the waiting room at the oncology clinic launched into this whole thing about how her sister had breast cancer and oh my it was horrible but she's still alive blah blah blah.  I was polite, but on the inside I was a bit dismissive and defensive, thinking "you have no idea", putting myself on this pedestal of suffering.  I was embarrassed for feeling this way, for there is far greater suffering than mine, in terms of sickness and otherwise.  And besides, there was no reason to feel ruffled by her desire to relate.  Relating is the basis for small talk, and when in an oncology waiting room you can count on talking about the weather or cancer, two experiences you almost certainly share with your neighbor.  Additionally, I have come to realize that caregivers of the sick have their own valuable perspective on the sickness; their suffering, although of a different and perhaps non-physical nature, runs deep.  Maybe this woman was a caregiver for her sister.  Who am I to devalue her story and her experience?  

I had a point, but I've lost it.  I suppose it could be, "I had a negative thought this one time, felt bad about it, and thought of some overlapping circles to describe it," but I'd like to think it was more eloquent than that.  I worked a full day, and it's been a long one; the first day back after hard chemo always is.  Hopefully you can read between the lines and figure out my point, or at least enjoyed my overlapping circles.      


  1. Everyone has a story and most like to share theirs with good intentions. It's hard to hear their story when you're in a bad space & their story may seem trite compared to yours. I'm glad you recognize your reaction may not have been the best one. You see, even in her blah-blah-blahhing....something was learned. I understand your point, love you lots, & think the circles are meaningful, insightful, & groovy.

  2. I'm glad to count myself purple (caregiver) in your chart. These peak experiences teach us so much about ourselves. I'm probably not as generous as your dad or you when it comes to other people blah-blah-blahing. I know she meant you no harm, but really, if people could live with a little discomfort in situations they don't have control over, we could all learn so much about ourselves, others, and how to help. Just put your hand up when my blah, blahing starts with you - we can all be so unaware of things we have not experienced.

  3. I'm enjoying your circles and thinking about them and relating to where I am now and where I've been. I love to read your blog because it makes me think a lot and that's good for me. Old people are supposed to use their brains or lose them. Thanks for doing your part to help me keep my intact.

  4. I couldn't agree with you more, HK. I'm not the "sick person" in your circles, but I get annoyed when people try to relate. Everyone knows someone with cancer and maybe I don't want to relate or "blah blah blah" by the water cooler today. And maybe I want to be left alone. Maybe I don't want to hear stories of the "sister who had" or the cousin's mom "who is a survivor". I know everyone thinks their story is unique to tell, but mostly I don't want to talk about it because it's "my sister" and it's different to me. Most of the time a simple, "I know how you feel" is good enough with me. Not trying to be a Negative Nancy...but hey. I don't always want to chat it up.

  5. I think relating is part of human life - each of us want to feel like someone out there, somewhere, has witnessed what we've gone through. Much of the time, I have to stop myself (when I get irritated with the blah, blah, blah) and think that we're all just people, and the person that's trying to relate is probably trying to help me feel better, but just doesn't quite know what to say.

    Hil is right - everyone knows someone that's lived through the ugliness of cancer. Everyone has a story - that's what's important to remember, I think.

    Just my two cents for the day. :) We think about you every day, Heather. I can't wait for my blah, blah, blah at the water cooler to be, "My cousins are on this fab vacation right now, and I'm totally bummed that I'm not there celebrating with them!" :)

    Bec (The Cousin Who's Mom Is A Survivor :))