I just came in from struggling, straddling and sweating my cargo roof rack into place on top of the van. Frig, it's hot out there! I am quite proud of myself for getting it up there though. I thought I would have to get some help to hold it in place while I screwed the bolts on (we shall see how good a job I did when I drive down the road - don't drive behind me as I drive over any bumps!). I did it all by my little ole self though, with no help, but an occasional breeze to keep my morale up.
As I wiped the sweat off my brow, I stood back to admire my handy-work. I could not help but think back to a lady I know, who is going through a difficult period in her life. I believe she is in her late 60s and her husband apparently is in the process of beginning a cancer journey. They have yet to give a formal title to the kind of cancer he has, but there is a tumour floating around by his kidneys that is approximately 3-5" large. Not mm or cm, but INCHES! For one not familiar to tumours and their size, that is huge; about the size of an orange. I have mentioned at various points in my blog some of the trials I have traversed in my own life with cancer. It is not a pleasant disease and it affects many, many people in the world.
Why I think of this lady today, as I claim triumph over a difficult task, is because she is very dependant on her husband. She has a driver's license, but generally does not feel comfortable driving any real distance. She can clean, but cooking is not a skill that she can claim with any true sense. As meal time approached recently, she suggested that she would make dinner (a simple meal of barbequed hamburgers). Someone commented that she would have to start the barbeque and she retorted "oh well, I can't do that! You better do it G." I was floored. She could not even start the barbeque! Perhaps she is not comfortable handling propane, but really it is a fairly straight forward task. What is she going to do if her husband dies? We all die, but with his failing health, one would assume he will succumb sooner rather than later. She is even afraid of confined spaces (elevators to be exact) and worries about what she is going to do if he is admitted to hospital for surgery and is up on the fifth floor for recovery. How will she get up to the fifth floor? At said point, I am aghast.
Over the course of the cancer journey that I went on with my husband and grief journey I have struggled with since he died, I have had many challenges. Understanding diagnoses, assisting him in his mobility, undertaking more household chores when he was unable were all things that I just did, because I had to. I did not want to, but I did not have a choice. Well, that is not exactly right, as my Mother pointed out to me at points. Another choice could have been to walk away, but that would never have happened. To me it was not a choice. She pointed out the strength it took to be there for my family, that some just do not have. Since my husband died, I have taken on all the cooking, cleaning, bill payments and general running of my household. Again, I have not wanted to do it all and at points was very close to throwing it all away, but somehow I have found deep reserves of strength to push me through. My house is not cleaned as often as some, but I pay my bills on time and make most of our meals from scratch. I do it because I have to. Again, there is always the option to leave, which to me is a non-option. I have a certain level of pride in the fact that I go beyond the mundane chores and accomplish other tasks that need attending to. I painted my living room in the winter mostly by myself. When I had my basement renovated the winter before, I again did all the painting. I have organized having the furnace and hot water heater replaced, a shed built, and every room in the house (but my bedroom) painted. I have lifted furniture on my own muscle, when I perhaps should have asked for help, but am learning that I do not have to always do it all solo. For me it is not a matter of knowing how to do something, it is more a matter of knowing that I cannot do everything and stepping back to allow others to do what I cannot. There is no glory in being a martyr, I have been told in not so many words.
So when I look at this woman, who will be in such a disastrous place when her husband dies, I feel a certain level of anger, confusion and disbelief. I have wished and wanted someone to be there for me to help with running my household, spending quality time with and enduring this thing called life. I am sure that someone will enter my life at some point, that I will want to share and care with. I am learning to like and love me and respect my abilities and weaknesses. Really though, I am content to spend time with me, getting to know me and my path. I would love to have more companionship, but I do not need someone to survive. That level of dependence is scary for me and I just cannot fathom it. I had someone ask me if I had talked to this woman directly, and admitted I had not. In crisis, you survive as best you can and she seemed to be pulling back from her usual outgoing self. I could not and did not want to put myself out there and tread in my own recent memories. I cannot change her world. She will have to survive it the best she can and all I can offer her is the strength to face the day.
I realize I have gone on here, but just want to offer a link to a support system that has buoyed me up over the years for any of you challenged by a cancer diagnosis. Wellspring is a wonderful organization that offers emotional support to individuals, family and friends of anyone dealing with cancer. It is a Canadian organization that has branches all across the country and I have utilized their services often. I have not always been as strong as I am today, but they have been there to hold me up whenever I have had a need. As I have trudged a cancer path, I know how difficult it can be. Any of you that need an ear are always welcome to chat. Peace to you all.