The Thing About Being Sick

Last night J took me to see “50/50” which I have been super excited to see ever since I saw a preview for it months ago. I tend to really latch onto movies and books about “sick” people because in some ways I can relate to those stories better than I can relate to stories about “normal” people. I feel connected to the characters who are hanging out in the hospital like I do on a regular basis, who are more concerned with the outcome of blood tests than the outcome of a date. These days, I often feel like I have more in common with cancer patients than healthy people my own age. I may not understand the horrors of chemo but I do understand what it is like to have a disease redefine normal.

One of the things that I really loved about the movie was the way it portrayed the main character’s relationships and how his cancer affected everyone.  You see, that’s the thing about being “sick” that you don’t realize until it happens to you. Your illness affects everyone around you in different ways, and impacts your relationship with them in ways that you will never be prepared for. You learn quickly that you will regularly have to tell people information that will hurt them. No matter how hard you try, when you get bad news from the doctor, you will hurt those you love when you pass along the information. It is one of the hardest parts of being sick. You quickly learn ways to “pad” the bad information. The facts come prefaced with “don’t worry,” “it’s not that bad,” and any other combination of words that you can piece together to take the sting out of the bad news that you have just started to process yourself. And you learn that being a sick person is as much about being cared for as it is about being a caretaker yourself. Others try to comfort you, but in the end you end up comforting them more than the other way around. They try their best, but there simply is no way for them to really understand, and they are probably even more scared than you are because they have even less control than you do. I loved the way the movie portrayed this. And I loved how the movie showed how important it is to remember that your illness affects everyone around you, not just you. Sometimes they may not respond the way that you want them to, sometimes you may feel smothered or ignored, but they are dealing with a life-changing illness as well and are most likely doing the best they can. As the mother in the movie says to the therapist, “I want you to know I smothered him because I love him.” Those closest to you are going to love you the best way they know how, sometimes it may help, sometimes it may not, but to be surrounded by people who love you is the most important part. I am so blessed to have a life filled with people who love me and are there for me in any way that they can be. To be honest, somedays it can be difficult. When there’s bad news to pass along, it can be exhausting and it can start to feel like I need to comfort everyone when I am struggling to make it through myself. But all those people are here for me through thick and thin. They may need to be comforted sometimes but it is because they care so much, and to have that is worth every difficult moment.

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