Late last week I received and unexpected visit from a long-time friend, who I had not seen since her breast cancer treatment began. In fact, our last conversation took place on the telephone the day before she was to have surgery that was to have been a lumpectomy and a look at her lymph nodes to see if any of them were affected. That very next day this friend’s world came crashing in on her, as she faced the diagnosis of a very aggressive breast cancer that now involves all her lymph nodes. This is a young woman who is coming to terms with her mortality, day by day.
Given I know this friend well, when she asked me how my care recipient was doing, I openly answered the question and then expressed my frustrations about the problems that are created given this elderly person apparently will not admit the changes occurring within her body, and therefore often gives us challenges that we could avoid, if she’d face the facts. Then, I think I added a statement that it was not all about me, saying that I wonder what it must be like to see yourself facing the end of your life. My friend then turned to me to engage my eyes and assured me that it isn’t any fun at all. Realizing that I had been completely insensitive, I looked at her and shut my mouth, and nodded as I looked at my friend who of course was speaking from the voice of experience on the matter.
Later that evening, I sent my friend an email message thanking her for not calling me on my lack of sensitivity, and for helping me be more sensitive when my care recipient was being a source of frustration for not facing the fact that her time in this life is winding down.
Yours in caregiving,