Over the past 3 years I’ve definitely re-evaluated my relationships with others in light of B’s illness. It’s something I think about a lot, but haven’t yet written about in this blog.
In some cases B’s cancer has affected those relationships, in others it’s brought the facts about them into sharp relief. In relation to the illness I can classify my relationships into 4 main groups.
If I were a younger, hipper person I would refer to this group as my crew, my hood, my posse. These are the people I always assumed would be there for me if something bad happened, and they are. Always available, day or night when things are really bad, to provide a hug or a kind word or just an ear to listen. The people who know what’s going on with me, and me with them – whether good, bad or indifferent.
Acquaintances and colleagues who step up and surprise me with their thoughtfulness and consideration. Those who take an interest in what’s going on and (at work) cut me some slack around scan time, and during the long months of B’s treatment – when I was absent from work a lot, and cancelled engagements, and was generally fraught and unreliable.
Those with whom I have a formal or cordial relationship, who suddenly pretend as if B no longer exists or, worse, avoid me altogether. I know it’s a tough subject to breach, but just breach it. It’s not THAT hard. It’s made me re-evaluate the ways in which I respond to others in the same situation, too. Recently I was chatting to a colleague in the tea room who, I hadn’t realised, had been off sick for quite a while. He told me he’d had surgery to remove a tumour in his salivary glands.
Me: Is that big scar on your neck from the surgery then?
Him: Yeah. It was a long and delicate operation due to all of the nerve endings in that area. The surgeon told me I might become permanently droopy.
Me: You’re not droopy.
I hate it when B’s illness is the elephant in the room. I’d rather people make a bad joke or a light-hearted comment than say nothing at all.
The spectacular fails are people I previously assumed were ‘my people’ but are actually not. They care far less than I thought, or aren’t willing to look past their own lives (or perhaps a combination of both) to show any empathy or interest. I’ve had a hard time dealing with these over the past few years, although thankfully they’ve been few and far between. In hindsight the evidence of a fail was there – in the relationship before all of this happened, in the way they treat others. This makes it marginally easier to deal with but I still find it difficult to dampen my wounded outrage. I know what would be expected of me if the tables were turned, in fact it’s one of my great fears that I’ll be placed in that position, as I know I wouldn’t be able to summon the expected feelings and say the expected things. Not anymore.
So, I still need to work on accepting and letting go – I can’t change it, I can’t make it what it isn’t. Better to focus on my posse.