When someone you love falls ill with a serious disease or sickness, it can be one of the hardest things they ever have to deal with. Then, with their pain comes the pain had by those around them as well. Although we all want to be as strong and supportive as possible, it’s sometimes difficult to always keep it together. People don’t often realize that truly coping when a loved one is sick can be a difficult thing to do.
An extremely close family member of mine, who wishes not to be named, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The moment I found out, I knew I would be nothing but supportive, helpful, and loving throughout the treatment. When she cried, I was right by her side hugging her. When she became nervous, I was there to hold her hand and comfort her. When she needed to vent or confide in me, I was there to actively listen.
It has been almost a month since the diagnosis, and I have been doing my very best to support my loved one. I am very proud that I have held myself together for so long, but I have come to realize that it is taking a toll. Even though I have put on a happy face in front of my loved one, I hurt inside. Whenever someone mentions anything related to cancer, my stomach churns. I have been having nightmares at night as well, dreaming that my loved one is falling and I can’t catch her. Even though I have been trying my hardest to help her cope with the situation, I have been suffering myself. I have locked my emotions away in fear of coming off weak. I was afraid that showing my fear and pain would further increase my loved one’s pain as well.
After a few days of feeling miserable, I told myself enough was enough. I began to realize that if I was ever going to truly support my loved one through her battle with breast cancer, that I had to find a way to not only help her cope with the situation but to fully help myself cope as well. I realized that coping when a loved one is sick deals with more than just putting up a positive front.
I began scouring the internet and talked to friends for guidance. I read blogs and watched videos about girls in my very shoes… and my eyes were opened. I had always believed that being strong for another person meant exactly that. I thought it meant to always wear a smile on your face; to always be happy for them. I was under the impression that you locked your own feelings away for the sake of your loved one’s. Their sickness is about them, thus only they matter. Yet, if you can’t keep yourself happy, how in the world are you going to be able to keep anyone else happy?
From that day forward I began releasing my feelings when I needed to. I would talk to my loved one whenever I was concerned or worried. I stopped bottling up my feelings, and did my best to release them in a manageable way. I still did and do my very best to support my loved one through her treatment, I assure you. Yet now, I show her that I feel what she feels… I show her that I am not just a robot whose artificial emotion is stuck on “happy.” I have even come to notice that she actually seems grateful when I express I am feeling the same way she is. It not only helps me cope with her illness, but I think it helps her know that she really isn’t alone.
Even though this experience is a negative one for the both of us and is for anyone going through a battle with cancer, I want her and the rest of the world to know that there is always a silver lining to be found and there is always a way to cope.