Thank God It’s Us and Not Some Other Family
A woman’s usual response to her husband’s recurring cancer.
“This is not public information,” Sharon said, leaning in as we watched our kids on a school outing, “but my husband will be back in the hospital in about a week, he is having another bout of it.”
She was referring to his brain cancer. His battle had been ongoing for six years. They had just finished a round of chemotherapy and discovered they would need another surgery. I was shocked. I would see her husband nearly every morning when I’d pick up his son for carpool and you would never know.
I asked her how she was managing and what I could do to help.
She responded, “I roll with the punches and I have completely succumbed to the fact that I have no control. This is my life and this is what we deal with. It’s a ‘new normal’. And the kids keep us strong because you just can’t fall apart in front of them.”
What she said next blew me away. “I guess I'm just happy it's us going through this and not some other family.”
Flabbergasted, I asked, “What do you mean?”
“Well, we are used to this challenge. So if Jonathan gets cancer again… we have a protocol and a system. We know how to deal with it. If it were another family experiencing it for the first time they might think their life is officially over. Thank God it’s us and not someone else.”
Sharon was sincerely glad that she was suffering and not another family. How does a person reach spiritual greatness to be able to say these words and mean it?
I was experiencing a small recurring life challenge and Sharon’s words served as a great way to reframe my mindset: At least it is me, I’ve been trained in this challenge, I can do it again. I wouldn’t want someone else to have to experience this.
For months, I could not stop thinking about what she taught me. I knew she had more wisdom to share so I met with her again and here is what I learned.
1. Do things that make you happy.
On “lighter” days I try to make sure that I do something that I know makes me happy. I take a hike or I go to Target I've started to go out at night again because you can really lose yourself in the process. At a certain point I said to myself: I'm no fun anymore. What happened to me? Doing things that feel “fun” helps to minimize the resentment. I have to make sure to make myself happy or else I can't help anyone else in my family be happy.
So often women feel guilty when “indulging” in actions of self care, but we must nourish our inner souls, minds and bodies in order to try and nurture anyone outside of ourselves. Resilience starts inward and can only then ripple outward.
2. Resilience happens over time.
Resilience isn't a magical thing that appears one random day. You grow into it, and often because you are forced to. You take each day one at a time and suddenly a few years down the road you look back and say to yourself, “I guess I’m stronger now than I was then.”
Sometimes you can't train for resilience. It just smacks you in the face and you have to get up again.
3. There will be major highs and lows. Accept them both.
Just the other day, I spent the entire day crying.… I couldn't stop. But I accept it. I make no judgments of myself. I allow myself to feel whatever I am feeling. That’s okay.
We must allow ourselves to feel pain in order to move through it. Blocking or ignoring it will only cause it to resurface later. We need to give ourselves permission to cry.
Allowing ourselves to feel pain and sadness enables us to emerge stronger and ready for the next challenge. The future no longer looks unsurmountable and are ready to experience joy in a deeper way when it comes knocking on our door.
4. The ‘new normal’ is normal too.
For so long I kept denying what was happening and wishing and wanting for things to go back to the way they were. Finally I accepted my life and realized that my ‘new normal’ was normal too. I just keep saying to myself: this is my new normal. Sometimes that drastically changes from week to week and I must keep adjusting to a whole new baseline. But the bottom line is no matter how hard the situation, accepting that “This is my new normal” helps.
By working on these four aspects of resilience, over time we can hopefully reach the stage where we can say, “I'm just glad it's me,” regardless of the challenges God bestows upon us.
Since writing this article Sharon’s husband has passed away. It was a tremendous loss to our community. May his wife continue to be strengthened with resilience and may she continue to be a role model to us all. And may this article be a merit to his lofty soul.
Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.