We’re All in This Together
Last week a wedding, this week more cancer.
I’m not a huge fan of weddings because they seem overblown to me for all of the wrong reasons, but I grabbed on to a bright spot of communal joy for the summer and embraced the kum-ba-yah that my niece and her groom put in. It was lovely. Even the overly long, ill considered and sincerely meant speech by the best man.
I put together, some years after Lisa and I got married, that we didn’t just marry each other – we married into each other’s families. We’ve been incredibly fortunate that, despite a variety of cultural differences (including but not limited to the casual use of the word “clusterfuck” at the dinner table), we get along and like each other’s family quite a bit.
And cancer isn’t a solo ride either. Sure, Eithne was the only one with ovarian cancer, and nobody but Lucie was getting chemo, and it’s just Anthony with the re-awakened tumor. But the fact is, what we do as individuals impacts everyone around us. Anthony’s cancer inflicts him one way, and it does something different to his wife, to his children. My father’s death means something different to me than it does to my eldest brother – not just because we’re different people, but because I was 10 and he was 22. I grew up with a single parent, he didn’t.
But. But but but.
I got this email today from a mutual friend of Eithne’s – Eithne, incidentally, died in six short weeks last Christmas after her tummy ache, suspected diverticulitis, was officially diagnosed as ovarian cancer. My friend wrote:
The thing I felt around Eithne was really the sense of how alone it is for the person who’s ill/dying. Really they’ve got to do it on their own and what’s difficult for everyone else is figuring out (or failing to) how to support them in it.
While we’re running around acting more like a community than ever, hopefully bringing our best game to bear, that person we’re trying to help is having his or her fundamental alone-ness reinforced more and more.
Ain’t that the shit.