My daughter has a fever today and is generally miserable. I want her to feel better immediately, of course. Sick three-year-olds are pretty much the most pathetic thing in the world. (“Mommy, mommy, mommy, what can I do?! What can I do?! My legs are freezing but my head is hot and my sweatshirt feels funny and oh no I spilled my water and oh mommy mommy waaaaaa waaaaaa!” she wailed for 20 minutes straight until the ibuprofen kicked in.)
But at the same time, it’s such a relief to shove my own aches and pains to the side and focus on someone else’s problems. I love being the caregiver instead of the patient for a change.
I feel this relief every time a friend tells me about something hard that they are going through, which frankly, doesn’t happen too often these days. The sharing, I mean. Last time I checked, nobody’s life was perfect, but people seem to think it’s bad form to complain about anything to a cancer patient. If they do dare, they often stop and apologize mid-story, saying, “Of course, this is NOTHING compared to what you are going through. I can’t believe I’m even telling you about it.”
No no no, I say to that! Apples and oranges! Scoring pain is only useful in an emergency room. (In which case, I find 8 is a useful number to convey “need drugs now, but not being actively mauled by a bear.”) I don’t want to dwell on pain–mine or yours–but let’s not ignore it. Let’s admit that we all have tangles and jagged edges in our lives. We are all doing our best to cope and heal and find the grace to walk forward through dark places. And allowing me the opportunity to help listen and hug and cry and pray you through those places is a gift that reminds me I am more than a cancer patient: I am also a friend, a wife, a mommy, just a plain old human. It strengthens me by prying my gaze away from my own ugly navel (if my surgeon is reading this, that’s only a metaphor, you did a fine job). It makes me turn toward the strongest light I know, the Creator who promises that “a bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”
This has been a day of wiping tears and snot, of allowing juice and crackers on the couch and watching too much TV and going through a ridiculous number of those plastic thermometer probe covers. A messy day. A good day. Because I am here. Because we are here together.