Four years ago today i returned to the surname Hansen after many years away from it (as noted on this blog’s About page). Thoughts about the significance of that change formed a large part of the rationale for starting this project.
As chance would have it, less than three months later, i was diagnosed with cancer. In a longer post a year later i discussed why i wasn’t making that a prominent blog topic.
Anniversaries have a way of spurring us to take stock, to big-picture our everyday experiences. This one is compelling me to ruminate about all that has happened since then. About the way the passage of time can make the exact same event seem like yesterday and like ages ago.
Often i think about how the circumstances i’m dealing with affect others in my life. Coincidentally enough, i recently came across two articles that refer to the experiences of the health-challenged person’s friends and family, both authored by the patients themselves.
The first, by memoirist Cory Taylor, answered questions she was often asked by others in response to learning of her illness. It struck me that my post (linked above) did a little of the same thing — and answered a few of the same questions she did. She noted that the questions she was fielding were all ones she’d already been posing to herself — and that they hadn’t changed over the ten years between her diagnosis and when she wrote the essay.
The second article, by screenwriter Josh Friedman, discussed the role of bravery in dealing with a difficult diagnosis, and whether it’s helpful for well-meaning friends and family to encourage it or compliment the patient for it. His answer to that, in my condensed paraphrase, is this: While appreciated as coming from the best intentions, emphasizing courage can be unhelpful to the degree it prevents well wishers from empathizing with weakness — and to the degree it implicitly though unintentionally suggests that if the illness “wins” it means we patients weren’t brave enough or didn’t fight hard enough.
In my case, i am no longer having to fight the c-word itself; it was successfully defeated for now as far as the docs can tell. There are, however, ongoing battles related to the fall-out from various past treatments. Argh – i keep catching myself using warrior language; much as i might favor a fresher framework, it’s very hard to get away from.
It’s also true that almost everybody is struggling with something — something no less (and maybe more) difficult just because it’s not out in the open — whether physical, emotional, relational or all of the above.
So let me use this date-marker to remind myself and others that what helps us most to not give up is knowing there are others who know where we are. (By the way, that goes for not giving up on dreams as well as not giving up in our struggles.)
And now that, according to the calendar, this blog is exiting its toddler phase, i want to express my gratitude to who all who’ve dropped by here and have hopefully found something of interest.
Happy four year name change anniversary Katherine ! Though you didn’t make your diagnosis and treatment a prominent topic here, you did give us proof ( through this
fine blog) of how a person can deal with adversity in a very, very positive, creative
Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Shoji!!
Your observation that everyone is struggling through something reminded me of a little phase I went through…everything seemed difficult, life itself seemed impossible, and yet I constantly guilt-tripped myself over it because I knew my level of “suffering,” if it could even be called that, was far less than what other people in the world go through. I felt pathetic just for feeling pathetic. As I was coming out of that, learning to accept my own hardships and figure out what made *me* happy in life, I made a comment to my hairdresser (who also happens to be a friend of the family) that the crap I’d gone through the last year hadn’t been easy. Then she proceeded to tell me that she’d come to this country with no friends and no life and had built everything she had from scratch, with no one to guide her. She chastised me for letting heartbreak (my best friend and love interest had recently betrayed me in cold blood) and death (my grandma) get to me so much. I was annoyed with her for guilt-tripping me, but at the same time I struggled not to let her take me a step backward in not feeling pathetic anymore. It was tempting to *let* her guilt-trip me…anyway, that was the moment I stopped opening up to her. What was the use of telling her things like that if she was just going to make me feel bad for it?
I really appreciate you relaying this, Emma.
Seems to me that we are often the hardest on ourselves to begin with, so the last thing we need is for someone we’ve confided in to just not ‘get us’ (for whatever reasons of their own) and end up making thing worse.
Yup. Thing with me is, by the time I’ve confided in someone it’s because I’ve gotten to the point where I really want support. I’m not the most open person in the world. So when they make me regret confiding in them…
I know what you mean — i have so been there, done that!