"Mishaps are like knives that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or the handle."
-James Russell Lowell
He looks sad, like the world weighs heavily on his shoulders. I mistakenly think I understand why. “You look very down today. Am I right?”
“Yes. It has been rough lately. I have been going to the counselor and am making some progress.”
Before we first met two years ago, he had already been through a very difficult course of cancer treatment. Months of chemotherapy had been followed by a rocky course of radiation therapy. First, he had lost his hair then he lost his sense of taste, his saliva, and his desire to eat. Because his cancer had persisted despite his treatment, he had seen me for surgery. Now, two years later, he remains cancer free, yet the scars persist on both sides of his neck, he has little sense of taste, and he is fighting depression. “Tell me about your days,”
I ask. “My family tries to get me to go out, but I spend most of the day in bed or sitting in a chair. I can’t seem to get motivated.” “You went through a lot with your cancer treatment,”
I mention, restating the obvious. “It was a difficult experience for you.”
Then comes the surprise. “That’s just it!”
he exclaims. “I was so fortunate!”
I look at him. “Right now, my cousin, who has always been really healthy and who was my rock throughout treatment, is sick. I don’t know what to say to him. I don’t know how to help him. I feel like I was so lucky and just breezed through treatment. I don’t deserve to be doing so well.”
I am startled and think back to how terribly sick he was in the days when he was just recovering from his therapy. “You don’t know what to say to him? What did people say to you when you were hurting?” “Oh, a few were helpful just by staying with me and keeping me company. I got some cards. A few people said some really stupid things. Most people just stayed away from me. Some still avoid me, I think.”
He pauses. “I think I am avoiding my cousin.”
He pauses again. “That’s what I feel like I am doing.”
He looks at the floor. “I feel so guilty. I don’t know what to say to him because I was I so lucky and he is sick.”
I sit and listen. It is clear that he has somehow found a way to blot out at least some of the memories of his very difficult treatment. Nevertheless, the scars, both internal and external, are still fresh. What are the real issues? Insight and healing are still a long ways off. “I think I will go and visit my cousin this afternoon,”
he decides. We talk for a few minutes and he rises to go to see the psycho-oncologist. He smiles briefly then I watch as he heads down the corridor to his other appointment.
The following is feedback received for this blog:
You manage tell a lot with only a few words!
This is another one of those great posts which instantly sucks the reader into the moment you describe.