Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Putting it in Perspective, Part 2

In California, I'm visiting my family.  What a wonderful time to reconnect with the people I love and have missed for so long.  As part of my sister's cancer treatment, I accompanied her to chemo today.  Having never been to a chemo treatment, I really had no idea what to expect.  I had thought it would be more upbeat than I found it, though.  I suppose the tone of it all that affected me was seeing so many people facing a serious illness.  I have tried to stay connected with my sister as she battles this experience, by phone, email, etc, but I was really surprised at how going to the treatment felt to me.  It's as if I was able to stay a bit disconnected, removed, by being across the country from her.  As if by only hearing her voice but not seeing how the medicine has changed her body has made it safer for me.  I felt so sad knowing she has fought this war.  Then I became angry with the cancer itself.  With everyone's cancer.  How can something so small rage in our bodies and make us so sick, unable to care for our families and tackle daily tasks?  
But I know that my anger is really fear.  I know that when I am feeling out of control with something (like my sister's cancer), I show anger when I really feel fear.  I want to take it away and make her well.  I want to make all those people in the chemo room well.  I want to feel more in control of these difficult feelings.  They make me uncomfortable.  But perhaps I can learn more about myself through them.  How many of us can face our uncomfortabilities?  
So, putting it all in perspective, I think it's time for me to consider some alternatives for dealing with these feelings. The reality is my sister is dealing with a serious illness.  The reality is this illness will not change just because I want it to.  My fear is that she will not have my support in the way she needs as she faces her daily climb to health.  I have days where I don't know what to do, what to say, how to face her illness.  I feel like that 5 year old who stomps her feet and says, "It's not fair".  It isn't fair, but I can learn how to understand that life is experienced on many levels at once.  I can stay in the immediate, cognitive level and try to make sense of it all, or move into what I will call the sensational level - that in which information is delivered through the senses.  On the sensational level, I try less to make sense of everything in a scientific manner, and look more at how things make me feel.  What is my gut instinct?  Looking at my sister's situation, and the chemo experience we had today, the information I get is to be patient and open.  I understand that my anger does not help me, and it takes away from the support I need to give my sister.  
Cancer is ugly.  No doubt about it.  But she's beating it, and I feel lucky to learn from so wise an individual.  Thanks to my sister, I can learn a new way to face difficult situations.  And the journey needn't be scary, since we're here together.

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