You can’t always get what you want.

A blogging friend of mine recently posted some thoughts on cancer as process, as transformation. She talks about reverting to sweating the small stuff, and sheepishly admits to “missing” the simplicity of life during chemotherapy – where others pick up the mundane responsibilities, and your job as cancer patient, is simply to heal.

I get what she’s saying, and I do not begrudge her, but I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum.

I miss my old schedule of work-eat-sleep with occasional familial duties thrown in. I miss the old responsibilities I once had, and the (self?-) importance of what I did at work. I miss the late-night work hours and constant thrumming of emails in and out, replete with fast-paced decision-making. I miss the constant planning of flight itineraries and mocking my fellow travelers, who cower in the face of a 12-hour trans-Atlantic flight.

And, at the same time, I recognize completely how lucky I am, because there’s no way I could possibly handle that kind of work and constant responsibility. I value the gaps in my work schedule and do my best to “plug-in” when I can, helping to relieve the burden my coworkers bear, partly due to my inability to carry a full load.

Back in 2013, there was an article in the Los Angeles Times that talked about the “ring theory” of kvetching.  Basically, it’s about how the patient and those closest are at the center of concentric circles, and as the circles progress, those with more tenuous connections are on the outside.  The theory is: comfort in, dump out.  (I think I’ve talked about this in a previous post, but bear with me.) If you’re on the outside of someone, you’re only allowed to offer comfort, not dump.  (A dumping example might be: “You think you have it bad, let me tell you about how someone else I know suffered!”)

I’m reminded of this analogy when I think about my coworkers.  When all this started in late 2011, my colleagues – who are some of my closest friends – immediately closed ranks around me, simultaneously facing inward to provide comfort and outward to shield me and my family from any kind of work-related worry or concern.

While I desperately want to repay their kindness (and hope they are never in a situation where such help is required), I realize I can’t. It’s nice to imagine a time where I will miss the quiet of chemotherapy and perhaps think fondly of the days my friends helped me.  But, for now, that’s not my reality.  For now, I can only continue to do what I can do, and graciously accept the support and goodwill they tirelessly provide.


About Alan

F---ing Cancer since 2011.
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