Note: This blog is open to anyone who wants to read it, but it has been specifically written for those who with a helpless heart, want to do something to make a difference for someone who is going through cancer treatment or some other major medical circumstance.
Friend, if you have never been diagnosed with cancer or experienced some other all consuming heath crisis, I truly hope you never do. It changes many things, some of which admittedly are good, but others without question are not. One of those most basic and personal changes can involve our identity.
I mean really, can you think of anything more personal than the identity you have molded from your personality, values, interests and experiences? We know what fires us up, ignites our passions. soothes our soul, engages our interest, and how we want others to see us. And so this carefully chiseled version of us radiates from us like a light we generate quite deliberately. We project this light, like old reel-to-reel movies that were shown on the wall of my classroom as a child.
We prize & find comfort in the reflection we have
created for ourselves in the eyes others.
It is more important than most of us realize that others imprint this image of our SELF in their minds as “who” we are. Some of us fancy ourselves as professional, creative, witty, artistic, athletic, intelligent, talented, comical, a great negotiator or a kind friend. We may have worked hard to be a responsible, dependable, optimistic, giving or ethical person. Or by contrast the desired image might even be that of an intimidating, or life-funneling scoundrel.
No matter what image of our self has come into focus for us, then projected out for those who know us to perceive, it is ours, like our fingerprint. No matter if you love the image you have created or not, we find comfort in it because it makes relationships and social situation much more predictable.
But from the moment of diagnosis our ole familiar “self” becomes more like a phantom, rarely reflected
in the eyes of those we encounter.
This happens because “diagnosis” is quick to open a door and through it comes something new. The carefully crafted persona that so consistently looked back at us, is now illusive. It has been banished from the eyes and minds of others because a more urgent identity leaves no room to remember the old self. And so your proud image looks through your eyes, so isolated, yearning to find comfort, only to see its replacement peering back through the eyes of our loved ones.
Lets just call this new image THE PATIENT! The Patient is not a unique sort of image and it comes with its pals Pity, Avoidance, Sir Fix-a-Lot, Hypervigalence and Awkwardness. This posy is unavoidable and well intentioned, but really no replacement for your true self.
So, if you want to gift a “patient” with something rare, meaningful and will definitely make a difference, push the “patient” from your eyes and try to remember
WHO your loved one IS.
Ask yourself what charges their emotions, thoughts, and passions. What sort of shared history do you posses? How do they enjoy spending their time and money? Before diagnosis, if you were to spend time with them, what would you have done? What do they like to talk about? Do they love music, animals, family time, sports, good books, cooking, dance, theater, hunting, the great outdoors, travel, scrapbooking, movies, fashion, gardening, etc?
Try to “see” them, to remember . . . then take a moment to reflect that image back at them.
This sounds way too simple and really it is. But what is simple is rarely easy. For this reason, let me make a few simple suggestions:
- Don’t bring up the cancer OR the treatment. If they need to talk about it, let them do that and just listen
- Laugh together about shared memories
- Play a game of cards, or chess, or punch buggy
- Bring or send music they love from shared experiences
- Find a way to modify hobbies so they can currently enjoy them.
- Find a way that they can take in their passions
- Do something silly
- Find a way for them to experience live music
- Talk to them the same way you did before diagnosis
- Share new light experiences
- Allow them to be a person first and a patient second, or third, or…..
- If they love books, but find it hard to read, read books they love to them or buy them books on tape.
I will talk through this this week on my podcast of the same name at www.thecancersurvivorshow.com.
If someone near you is struggling with diagnosis and/or treatment I recommend that you read some of our past blogs that will help you this season:
We want to help you help your loved
one see themselves again.
It brings hope and a great reminder of WHY they are fighting!
Not just surviving, but THRIVING,
providing order, peace and joy through a cancer care package
assisting our friends through their cancer journey