As adamant as I am that my identity is unshaken by the little c, I recognise that others see me through this prism now.  Today I’ve seen lots of people for the first time since going public and the reaction has been a real mixed bag.

Some have apologised for not getting in touch – they’re too shocked.

Others chivvy me along in a brusque and matronly way.

Others look a bit sideways and downcast and either say out loud or with their expression: I don’t know how you’re coping.

Others look at me and cry.

Others have a form of Tourettes. “You look TERRIBLE! Mind you it’s not surprising.”

My preferred reaction is a heartfelt, strong hug followed by a simple statement like “Let me know what I can do.” or “I’m thinking of you and hope you’re staying strong.”

All of these generate an emotional response from me, ranging from wibbly lip to tears pricking.

I’ve also been the recipient of what I call ‘stealthy help’. A midweek dinner invite (I said “You do know I’m going to still be alive on the weekends for a while yet” before accepting gratefully). Playdate invites for the girls. Ducking out from my P&C secretary role and having the committee pick up the job of minuting. A lift to an appointment. Comments on this blog and loving emails. An encouraging Facebook message, for example Sue and her quotes of the day.

Today she cited David Foster Wallace and it describes these generous folks to a T:

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”

The relentless, unsexy helpers are the ones who make me actually cry.

3 Comments on Over reactions

  1. Your post above about reactions reminded me of Series 4 of the brilliant series Parenthood where Kristina tells her husband Adam, that ‘everything is not ok’. She wants to be allowed to feel and to be angry and to go through the emotions that her diagnosis has brought to her even though she wants to be there for her children, she also needs to be herself. This story is threaded throughout the rest of the episodes of that series. The importance of being allowed to ‘be’ and to have your own reactions so that you can formulate what choices are going to be right for you cannot be underestimated. Your own emotions and reactions are part of your journey and you require that non-judgemental support from us. I/We may share advice or stories from experience, but you can file that infomation in mental drawers from where you can draw that information or advice in order to make your own choices. Hugs and prayers that you feel the freedom and confidence to make the right choices for you – so looking forward to hearing how you faced this life challenge and came through strong and well to live to old age. I have the utmost confidence that you can do it.

  2. Karen. I was also going to invoke the Parenthood story line as, in such an articulate way, it resonated with me too! xx

    • Hi Sue – yes, Parenthood is an amazing series. I’ve read feedback that a lot of women understood what Kristina was going through throughout the series. And it has such a positive spin on it. What I have learned is that we need to have all the ‘facts’, and then make decisions that are right for us. In retrospect a couple of people’s experiences I know would have had different choices if I shared what I knew now after travelling with a couple of people through this journey. Thanks for sharing.