January 26, 2016

The Single Best Thing you can Do for a Loved One with Cancer.

Sjoerd Lammers/Flickr

The walls of the small 10-foot by 10-foot doctor’s office felt like they were closing in on me.

I sat in a hard, black plastic chair staring at the white walls and peeled pastel wallpaper. The doctor’s office had called the day before and asked me to come in.

“No news is good news,” my coworkers told me.

“You’re going to be fine,” my grandma said.

“I’m sure you’re going to be okay,” my friends assured me.

Yet here I sat.

No news was not good news. It meant my biopsy had been sent to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic for further testing. I was not fine. I was not okay. I was alone in a hospital room waiting for my doctor to come in and change my life forever.

“Your sample was abnormal and the margins are not clean. We’re not sure what we are looking at. We need to schedule an excision soon.”

My doctor concerned, most people don’t come to these alone. I could feel her compassion and sympathy.

I was a healthy 20-year-old college student with ivory skin. I was a healthy 20-year-old college student who had never set foot in a tanning bed or went outside without sunscreen. Yet somehow, here I was getting diagnosed with skin cancer. Scheduling an appointment to remove what had been beneath that unsuspecting mole on my arm that morphed into Melanoma.

That was four years ago. As I write this, I’ve had three new excision chunks taken out of my right arm and one out of my back. And I find myself in that same place.

Four months ago I relocated 2,000 miles away to a small town in Michigan. I have yet to make friends. So once again, I find myself alone, awaiting biopsy results and dreaming of all the things I wish my (nonexistent) friends would do for me.

It’s hard to ask for, but I do need help. This is what I really need from my friends, family and co-workers—though I’ll admit I haven’t asked yet.

We need you to listen—just listen.

The last thing I want to hear is how your aunt has breast cancer or how “everyone is getting cancer these days.” What?!

I hate to sound selfish, but this is about me and my fight. So I just need you to listen.

We need to feel like someone cares. You can’t understand what we’re going through, but we don’t need you to understand. And we need you to stop reassuring us that it will be okay, and just listen

No, I’m not fine. No, I’m not okay.

Am I going to live? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to be okay. And you telling me I’m going to be okay, only makes me feel bad about not being okay.

We are struggling here. We feel alone. We feel lost and broken. We don’t feel okay, so please don’t expect us to be okay.

We could use your help with simple tasks: laundry, grocery shopping, rides to appointments, walking the dog. You can’t fight this battle for us, we have to fight it ourselves. But you can help us with the small stuff, the little tasks we take for granted.

And we need you to respect our decisions and spirituality. This is not the time to tell us we created this in our mind or that our chakras are not balanced. There’s a good chance I did manifest this into my life—I worry far too much—but I don’t need a reminder that I’ve epically failed at life.

So please, let us figure it out.

Let me rant about it to you over takeout at my place. And just listen.

Bonus points if you help with the laundry and bring some groceries.


Author: Olivia Morrigan

Editor: Nicole Cameron

Image: Sjoerd Lammers/Flickr

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