Since it’s been nearly a year since I last wrote regularly, I figured why not jump back in with the heavy topics? I want to make everybody uncomfortably aware of my inner demons and worst fears and whatnot to make up for my absence from your lives (I promise my next post will be silly and lighthearted and maybe even in a list format, which is always fun)! My last post was about my early return from my mission, so this one will be about my husband’s cancer diagnosis.
Andrew (the aforementioned husband) was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when he was 19, 4 months after we started dating. As far as cancers go, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is kind of the way to go (so, in case you were thinking of getting cancer, aim for that one). If caught in the early stages, it has about a 90% cure rate. Luckily, Andrew’s cancer was caught in the early stages and he is three years in remission now!
Andrew was diagnosed because of a lingering cold that he had. Seriously. It was a cold that tipped the doctors off. He had gone into the student health center to get an antibiotic to help him fight it off. The student health center thought something might be up and acted strangely enough that Andrew went to the InstaCare for a second opinion. They also thought something was off. An ultrasound, PET Scan, and biopsy later, it was official. Andrew had cancer. He started a rigorous regimen of chemotherapy the following Wednesday, which was also Finals Week (and, like the trooper he is, he went and took his finals in the midst of all of this). After the chemotherapy was finished, he had 18 (nearly) straight days of radiation treatment.
Relapse is, of course, always in the back of our minds. Since he was diagnosed because of a cold, every sniffle, cough, or sore throat puts us on high alert. Earlier this year he had a lingering cough for a month and a half and we went to the doctor no less than four times because we were so anxious.
Andrew won’t be considered cured until he hits his 5 years in remission mark and the cancer is all but essentially guaranteed to come back eventually. The next time the cancer comes, chances of survival are good, but not as good as the first time. And each time it comes back the chances of survival reduce.
About 8 months ago I was watching one of my favorite TV shows. It’s a comedy with just enough drama to keep it interesting. In an episode that aired about a week before Valentine’s Day, a main character unexpectedly died from a heart attack due to complications from an previous injury which they thought he was in the clear for.
I was hysterical. I literally sat on the couch sobbing for a good three hours. For the life of me, I could not figure out why this TV show made me so upset, and why I cared so much that this character died. It was a fake person that died. I was pretty embarrassed about my reaction, but I was weepy for the rest of the night and Andrew was more than a little flabbergasted about why I was so upset (in all honesty, I, too, was a little flabbergasted).
I was groggy the next morning and couldn’t get the death of that character off of my mind. Because I was so upset, I reached out to several people to complain about this death and how angry and hurt I was over this decision. Some people responded by listening and sympathizing. Some people told me it was just a TV show and it shouldn’t matter that much to me. Some people justified the decisions of the writers and executives.
What made me even angrier than this unexpected death on a TV Show is that people were dismissing my feelings and justifying the decisions that had upset me so thoroughly. Sure, I didn’t know why this had impacted me so deeply, but I certainly didn’t anticipate my sadness and anger to be met with coldness from those I was trying to confide in.
Of course, thanks to the order that I presented the information to you in, you’re likely able to quickly draw the parallels between what upset me so deeply in the TV show and my own very real life. It took me several weeks (where I was frustrated and angry with this dumb TV show) to stumble on the answer myself.
Andrew has a chance of unexpectedly relapsing at any point and it could kill him. Just like that character unexpectedly “relapsed” into his injury and it killed him. It altered the lives of everyone around that character and his wife was (justifiably) devastated. There was about a 30 second clip where the wife receives the news that her husband has passed away and it was very difficult to watch her reaction. For me, it was like looking into a possible and horrific version of my future, which would be upsetting for anyone. Which is why I was so traumatized. And which is also why I was so hurt that so many of the people I tried to confide in brushed me off.
It wouldn’t be a post on Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Pizza if I didn’t have a key takeaway summary at the end of my post. In an effort not to upset my adoring fans (thanks for reading. Really, I appreciate it – you didn’t have to make it this far in my post or keep reading my blog when I update it and you did and that’s really cool of you), I will continue with that pattern.
So here’s my lead up to the key takeaway: Why on earth do we question someone else’s narrative? When we’re confronted with someone else’s story, often our first reaction is generally to question them on the accuracy of the story, justify the actions of the people around them, or invalidate their feelings. Sometimes we even go so far as to say, “Well, it didn’t upset me, so it shouldn’t upset you.”
Since we’re all a unique conglomeration of triumphs and tragedies, successes and sorrows, loves and losses, we cannot possibly know how every event will effect someone else, or expect them to react in the same way we did when confronted with the same situation. And here’s the key takeaway. Next time someone confides in us or tells us about something that was upsetting to them, let’s swallow our initial reaction of justification and just tell them, “I’m sorry. That really sucks.”