I am sitting in my usual position on the sofa in the music room near the bay window. My wife was on the phone a few minutes ago to share some disturbing news about a good friend of ours. I have done some initial searches on internet, specifically WebMD and updated my knowledge a bit. The dog is staring me expectantly, paw on the cushion waiting for the go ahead to jump up on my lap for a cuddle. I wonder if he has a sense that I am in need of a bit of comfort. I stare out of the window, the sun is shining now after a rather wet start to the day and the leaves of the plants glisten as the sun sparks off the rain drops still clinging to them. It is rather windy so the plants are swaying quite a bit; cars pass by on the road outside the house; there are white clouds tinged with grey slowly heading eastward.
Our friend yesterday received a diagnosis of colon cancer which has already spread to her liver, stage IV cancer out of the blue. My wife and I are well equipped to be told this type of news but the emotional impact is always hard when it is somebody so personal to our lives. We have lived through acute and chronic life threatening illnesses, our work means we recognise the need everyone has for support and to a certain extent we are able to give help. This illness affects both our families lives and whilst supporting everyone we also have to look out for each other.
Whilst talking on the phone my wife and I start remembering the people we are aware of at the moment:
- The friend with life changing liver disease;
- The friend whose daughter has thyroid cancer;
- The friend with two young children who has thyroid cancer;
- The friend being treated for breast cancer;
- The friend with perineal cancer;
- The friend whose husband recently died from cancer.
We are not overwhelmed by this, but it does seem a bit heavy.
I seem to be of the age where serious life threatening illness statistics are turning against my world. I wonder whether the colon cancer is terminal and how the husband and kids will deal with our friend not being there to support them. I wonder how my kids will receive the news; our two eldest kids went to play group together, their younger brothers have known each other all their lives. All the kids still make the effort to spend time together; they still play music together. One step at a time, I remind myself.
Numbness and sadness are my main emotions at the moment. I also recognise that I want to avoid writing about this. I think there is a pain just out of reach that I don’t want to touch. [I pause in my typing]. I think the practical, “we can handle this” me is in retreat a bit now, the emotionally fragile bit is pocking through. Acknowledging it seems to strengthen its impact. There is a bit of fight going on inside me. Whilst I think it is important to recognise my feelings, a detached part of me wants to assert itself and take control. It wants to move on and do something practical, something to tick off the list and help me feel better. I recognise it as a fairly standard way of coping with anxiety, this detachment will have its uses but currently it feels disingenuous.
I feel really rather weary now, time for a snooze I think. I lie down on the sofa and the dog jumps up, looks into my eyes for a bit and eventually settles on my tummy.