Saturday, November 18, 2006

New to SharingOurDays -- Life Changing Cancer (Cancer)

The following post was taken from Monday, November 13, 2006. The actual post is longer, and I encourage you to read it. The author, Lynne Dahlborg, is a good, thoughtful writer.

Love, Cancer and Vulnerability

Lately, I've been thinking about the vulnerability of loving a person with cancer. Like many folks who are diagnosed with cancer, after my gallbladder cancer diagnosis I found that some of the folks in my life drew closer, and some pulled away. Those who drew closer have provided amazing emotional, physical, spiritual support for me. And those who have withdrawn are suddenly not in touch and not connected. I don't know whether any of my friends in the second group made a conscious decision to withdraw, or if it just happened somehow. And I don't know how many of my friends in the first group, those who have moved closer to me, have thought about the consequences of their closeness.

In the 1980s, two friends of mine were killed while vacationing in the Caribbean. Murdered on the beach, those of us left behind felt shock and horror at their sudden death. This may sound like an obvious observation, but their deaths brought me the realization that when we love someone, two things can happen. They can leave us, through death or dissolution of the relationship, or we can leave them, through our death or a decision to end the relationship. Those are the options, really. It was the first time I was able to articulate the true vulnerability of loving someone, whether it's a friend, an intimate partner or a family member.

In the past, I have been one who withdrew after a cancer diagnosis. My friend Willa was diagnosed with lung cancer almost three years ago, and soon after, we spent a wonderful afternoon eating and talking and sharing stories. She was determined to fight her cancer, and seemed convinced she would win the fight against the cancer. I left that wonderful day with a strong intuitive sense that she would not survive the cancer, and then I had to decide whether to be with her, loving her, but feeling strongly she would not survive, or whether it was better for me to withdraw. I did withdraw, except through cards and emails and phone calls. I didn't see her again before her death in May of 2005. Given that situation again, with my own experience, I would not withdraw, but I would need to decide how to talk with her about my own feelings about her illness. It's tricky.


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