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You Have to Live it to Understand

Posted 11/21/2016

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  We often talk about the unfortunate truth that our families and friends, no matter how much they may love us and want to be supportive, just don't get it. This is likely true about all major life experiences. It is impossible to truly appreciate what it feels like to watch a parent age or have a baby or get divorced unless one has gone through the same experience. Even then, of course, everyone's process is unique, but we surely can be closer to one another's feelings if we have gone through something similar.

  I have often commented that having cancer twice is one of the worst things that has happened to me personally, but one of the best things that has happened professionally. I surely have better credibility than I could have otherwise had, and I do understand in a way that would not have been possible had I stayed healthy. It is not imperative, fortunately, that a caregiver has been a cancer patient in order to be a terrific social worker or doctor or nurse...but I suspect that it helps.

  Thanks to Amy for sending this along from the blog, Here Comes the Sun

Dear every cancer patient I ever took care of, I’m sorry. I didn’t get it

This thought has been weighing heavy on my heart since my diagnosis. I’ve worked in oncology nearly my entire adult life. I started rooming and scheduling patients, then worked as a nursing assistant through school, and finally as a nurse in both the inpatient and outpatient settings. I prided myself in connecting with my patients and helping them manage their cancer and everything that comes with it. I really thought I got it- I really thought I knew what it felt like to go through this journey. I didn’t.

I didn’t get what it felt like to actually hear the words. I’ve been in on countless diagnoses conversations and even had to give the news myself on plenty of occasions, but being the person the doctor is talking about is surreal. You were trying to listen to the details and pay attention, but really you just wanted to keep a straight face for as long as it took to maybe ask one appropriate question and get the heck out of there fast. You probably went home and broke down under the weight of what you had just been told. You probably sat in silence and disbelief for hours until you had to go pretend everything was fine at work or wherever because you didn’t have any details yet and wanted to keep it private still. You probably didn’t even know where to start and your mind went straight to very dark places. That day was the worst. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

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