Acceptance. This is a tough word for someone who has cancer. Not just acceptance of the condition but acceptance of help, meals, rides, shoulders to cry on, and anonymous donations.
My husband and I had to learn to accept altruism. We were both used to being the doers, the givers, the what-do-you-need-we’ll-help-you-out people. It was our turn to receive.
I’m not gonna lie — this was very difficult and the most overwhelming feeling of all. We appreciated the kindnesses of so many people — ones we didn’t even know, ones we did know, and ones we had yet to know. We were speechless, grateful, and blown away. Your belief in humanity is restored, and all you can hope for is that the folks that you accept help from never have to be on the receiving end in this type of C-word scenario.
Once we were more comfortable accepting help, humor and joy were able to peek in and make appearances more often and more freely.
Let me give you a glimpse of some real moments that I have since accepted as my new reality. I'm sure there are more, but chemo brain is real and surreal and lingers on.
Let me set the scene. I’m at the grocery checkout with a long line of people behind me. They all have one item. It’s showtime. You’ve got this. The bags are packed, and your total is $86.67. Debit or credit? Debit, you say. Except, you have no idea what your PIN is! You’ve used it practically every day for the past 20 years, and you have absolutely no idea what it is. You try again. Angry, one-itemed people are staring heated holes into your foggy brain. You try again. Let me try another card. You can’t remember that PIN, either. The third time’s a charm: Credit, please, credit. Exit stage left.
It’s Tuesday, and your husband has you file paperwork in the desk for safekeeping and for reference the next day. Wednesday: “Jason! Where the hell is that paperwork?! I need it! I haven’t seen it since they gave it to me at the hospital!”
In my defense, he is a neat freak and moves stuff, God bless him. He reminds you that just yesterday you put it in the drawer. You have absolutely no recollection of taking said paperwork out of the envelope, writing on it, and filing it away. None whatsoever. But there it is — laughing at you from the drawer. If it were a snake, you would have been bitten. Twice.
Words. You can’t remember any of them. I even have trouble with my son’s third-grade spelling words. Do you know how many times I’ve used the dictionary just to write this article? Oy vey.
It’s like “Groundhog Day,” except I wish Bill Murray were with me every day.
It’s moments like these that people with cancer need to accept. Accept the reality that although the memory is hanging by a thread or you’re accepting that the neighbor you’ve never met is bringing you their latest attempt at their grandma’s banana bread recipe that still wouldn’t make said grandma proud. Accept that you have chronic pain, neuropathy, scans, and that nagging ringing in your ears that turns on like someone is sending a fax to your brain. Accept, accept, accept. These moments of acceptance, humor, and joy only confirm that you are still very much alive. You’re a warrior — accept it.
MyLungCancerTeam columnists discuss lung cancer from a specific point of view. Columnists’ articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyLungCancerTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. MyLungCancerTeam content isn’t intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.