Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[cancer] The minor indignities

I spend probably too much time talking about the costs of cancer in my life. The loss of writing time, the draining of social energy, stress on me and my friends and loved ones, anxiety, depression, despair. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you've seen all that.

There's a host of minor indignities, too. Little inconveniences and small penalties that add up, day after day after day. Chemo fatigue makes the stairs very hard for me, so if I have anything I need to do in the basement, I have to plan ahead to do it pretty early in the day or accept fifteen minutes of prone enervation after an unplanned afternoon excursion. All my food tastes like it was wrapped in plastic. Heck, water usually tastes like it was wrapped in plastic. Because of chemo-induced GI dysfunction, I spend more hours on my knees with a toilet brush, multiple times per day and night, than I ever had in my life prior to cancer. (Normal people with normal bowel function don't have to scrub their toilet six or eight or ten times per day.) I spend a lot of time hand washing, especially after all that toilet brush work. Likewise, I am often interrupted at whatever I'm doing with a sudden, unplanned and highly urgent need to go create a new toilet brush event. There are occasional unexpected changes of clothing because the urgent need didn't get met quite fast enough. I fall asleep at odd moments. I can't remember anything unless I write it down, then I have to try to remember that I wrote it down and what I did with the note.

Blah blah blah. I could go on with the whining. My point is that the process of cancer and chemotherapy isn't all crisis and mortality issues and deep, abiding needs being unmet. It's also an endless, relentless parade of minor indignities and small hassles and interruptions and delays that make life a palimpsest of continuous irritation.

So if you're caregiving for a cancer patient, or have a friend who's struggling with it, or writing a character whose going through cancer, keep in mind that some of the greatest kindness you can extend is in small ways. In my world, several people including [info]mlerules and [info]tillyjane (a/k/a my mother) come over every few days on no particular schedule and do my laundry, put my dishes away, restock my fridge with the few foods I can still eat easily. Or simply rub my feet.

Because you can steer around the big stuff. Or address it in therapy. Or sometimes just have a good cry. But the small stuff? The minor indignities? They're relentless.

Tags: cancer, family, friends, health, personal

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