Reactions: Cancer Journal

Life with thyroid cancer has been so interesting.  I’ve learned so much about people…so much.  For the most part, people are really good.  I’ve been surprised.  I’ve been shocked…mostly I’ve been comforted.

Previous to my diagnosis I can’t say that I’ve been the best support to others who have hard medical diagnosis.  I’ve thought I tried…but just didn’t know what to say…how much to say…does the person want to talk about it…what do I do to actually help?  All of it was so confusing and complicated.

I’ve had some really awesome talks with my niece Jody.  She is a breast cancer survivor.  She’s a great sounding board.  I can say anything…anything at all to her and being she too has had cancer, she gets it.

Here’s something Jody said, “Cancer is a great way to sift through the real-ness of some relationships in our lives. People will either back away, rush in, or observe and take note helping where needed.”

She is so right.  Sifting through the real-ness of relationships has really been enlightening.

I really believe that some people really don’t know what to say.  I think some people are quiet and say nothing because they are afraid to say the wrong thing.

Jody shared a great article…

Comfort in. Dump out.

You can find it here.  For the most part, the article is pretty good.  The only part I don’t agree with is who is in the inner circle.  For me, I would put Hubby and the kids in the inner circle too.  Just because I have cancer doesn’t mean that I want to quit being their mom.  I don’t want Kalissa to hide her morning sickness from me because she is doesn’t want me to worry.  I don’t want Buck to hide his divorce issues from me either.  I am still their mom…cancer or not.  I still want to feel wanted and needed.

I also want the kids and Hubby to talk to me about their fears.  I know the kids are afraid of how to deal with their Dad if I’m gone.  Who but me, is a better person to talk about that with?  I’ve lived with him all these years and can best predict how he’d be and what would best help him.  I want them to share their fears with me.

The kids can totally dump to me.  Hubby can too….anybody else?  Nope…not their fears about my cancer.  Share their problems and life..yes…  Their fears about my cancer nope.

For the most part, people have been pretty good.

I’ve had some not so good experiences…like someone sharing that my cancer adds to the list of people “they” are dealing with who have cancer in their lives and that  now Joey Feek even died from cancer.  This was a blog reader who rarely comments and I don’t have a real life relationship with….it made me feel like I was burdening them with “my” cancer and that my cancer added to the people on their list.

I’ve had friends and family not even acknowledge my cancer.  That’s made me feel contagious.

I had a brother call and talk to me for over an hour….I loved that!  We normally don’t talk lots anymore.  At family get togethers the men end up talking more with the men and the women the women.  I loved getting his call.

I’ve had people send get well notes and cards…those I’ve loved.  I know that people take time from their day to send them.

I’ve had people offer to help and then more or less yell at me because they knew I wouldn’t ask for help…that’s just not me.  I told my brother this and we both laughed.  We grew up in the same household.  Immediately he quoted my Dad..”If you want it done right, do it yourself”…and I quoted my mom.  “A good man helps himself”.  We both know that we, as Johnson kids growing up, NEVER ask for help unless there is no way we can do it ourselves.  Just because I have cancer…that didn’t change.  I also know that should I ask him for anything..he knows the code and will come running.  He doesn’t need to tell me he’d be there.  I KNOW!

I’ve had old high school friends drop a note and say “hey…sorry this is happening to you”.  Then we get a chance to catch up….I like that.

I’ve had people just do things without asking like the neighbor lady making a cake.  That I really appreciated as it was one less thing I had to do.  I always have something here baked for Hubby to take in his lunch…that day I didn’t have to.

I had a blog reader who lives close to Lacrosse and has a cabin on the river offer us the use of her cabin…How sweet??!  How generous!!

Kelli came one day and cleaned up all the dog poop from the winter now that the snow is gone.  She didn’t ask..didn’t offer…just did it.  I REALLY appreciated that!!

I love all the notes from blog readers with well wishes or times they tell me about someone they know someone that beat cancer…those stories are always inspiring.  I’ve really appreciate all the notes sent and comments left.

I’ve had people come unglued and start crying about my diagnosis….that’s hard…especially when I didn’t think they cared.  That makes me feel awkward…really awkward.

I’ve had AMAZING childcare parents.  They’ve all said “do whatever you need.  We’ll figure it out.”  I so appreciate that.  They haven’t acted like my problem was a problem to them at all….when I actually know it is a problem to them.  I SO appreciate their willingness to work with me.

I’ve had people ask how I am…I’ve said good.  Then I’ve been grilled and told that I have cancer, how can I be good?  It’s so weird that people don’t understand that even though I have cancer, I can be good.  I’m not curled up in a ball and miserable.  I’m good.  I am happy.  I’m glad for each day I get.  I love my husband.  I love my life.  I love my kids.  I love my home.  I love my dog. My medical issue I don’t especially love but even in that, there are things I love.  My doctor is great…I have a good prognosis.  I have a cancer that can be stabilized.  I am good.

If you, like me, don’t know what to say to someone who is experiencing medical issues, take a look at that article.  It really is pretty good…I do have to say, that I would prefer people simply say “I’m sorry this is happening to you”… vs. nothing at all.  When nothing at all is said, I feel like the elephant in the room.

For the most part…..People have been pretty good.  Jody was so right when she said, “Cancer is a great way to sift through the real-ness of some relationships in our lives.”  Previous to my diagnosis, I would have never known that. I never knew how many good people there are still out there.  It’s been something I am so happy to learn.  Rather than look at all the bad with this diagnosis I’m trying really hard to celebrate all of the good…You blog readers are really a big part of the good.  THANKS!!

30 thoughts on “Reactions: Cancer Journal

  1. Donna

    Wow! I’ve learned a lot from your blog but this is such a valuable life lesson. Thank you so much for just being you and taking the time to share yourself and your family with us. Have a great day today…National Quilt Day :)

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  2. Ellie

    Jo, you are such an inspiration ! You have brought tears to my eyes this morning. Your love of life and people is wonderful. You WILL beat this horrible thing. You are bigger and stronger than it and it is no more than a bump in your road.
    I don’t often comment although I look forward to reading your blog twice a day! You have encouraged me to comment more frequently! After all, how can we become friends if I don’t respond to you!
    God bless you and please continue to share whatever is going on with your life. There are many out there who share this journey with you and want to suppor you

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  3. Tina in NJ

    My social group has one member who is dying of colorectal cancer. Another member, who survived a life-threatening illness, has been coaching us to reach out and urging us to keep reaching out to her. Once you’ve been in that situation, you have a better understanding of what is acceptable. Thank you, Jo, for this very heartfelt post. I think that most people just don’t know how to help and don’t want to push.

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  4. Linda

    Thank you, Jo,for sharing your whole life with us, your blog friends. I hope you feel the prayers that are being prayed for you and your entire family – prayers for healing and prayers for strength.
    I suppose this blog post was cathartic for you,and it is certainly educational for your readers.i know I will be more aware of how to help my friends who are going through health concerns.
    May God continue to bless you with good health and healing.

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  5. LeeAnne

    Earlier this week my husband said cancer has made him a more compassionate person. Before that he was busy running our dairy farm and didn’t give much thought to what was going on in the rest of the world, so good came out of the bad. He went thru treatment 3 yrs. ago and still cancer free. The effect his cancer had on other people amazed us. I blogged about it on caring bridge and people are still telling us how much it affected them, so good came out of the bad, and I think that’s what it’s all about. I told people that quilters know how to handle this because when given scraps, we make something beautiful.

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  6. Colleen

    I’m sorry your going through this but you have a great attitude! Im an 11 year stage 4 uterine cancer survivor, diagnosed at 36. I’m an elementary school teacher and missed the end of the school year for my surgeries. But returned in the fall while doing chemo. People would ask why I was still teaching. You can’t stop your whole life. The kids kept me going. My family was a great strength. My mom and sister are both nurses so they were my advocates and guides through medications. Be strong but LET others do for you and don’t wait to ask if you need help. My mom moved me home temporarily so she could better care for me and my dad retired at the same time so our relationships were strengthened. My Sunday school students and church wrapped me in love even as our emotionally distant minister at the time never visited me once. ITa not been an easy road health wise since but I have realized my Lucy Duck Dreams(blog). Returning to quilting, getting my master in Library Science, a study abroad at 40!, and a a kayak and popup camper! Embrace the positive its a great healing force. Disregard the negative, you don’t have energy to waste. If you ever need someone to complain to please email me! BTW I donated my hair before chemo and when it started to fall out I shaved my own head. I’m an experiential learner and this was another experience to live through and talk about. Sorry this got long. Praying for you.

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  7. Sandy

    Indeed. What courage it takes to face it and address the “elephant” in the room. You are such an inspiration. I so look forward every day to your quiltiness in your blog and your personal sharing is a wonderful extra blessing to me. I read you early each morning and look to see in the evening what books you are reading so that I don’t miss a good one. Keep up the good fight. With your support system and God’s Blessing you WILL kick this thing.

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  8. Jill Klop

    Thanks for this Jo! The article is very good. I think I fall into that camp of not knowing what to say sometimes. There’s good advice here. I keep you in my prayer journal!

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  9. Myrna

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights. I’m one of those who doesn’t always know what to say, but I try to be there to help. Your attitude is so great and I hope some of it rubs off on me!

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  10. Robby

    A friend who had breast cancer was shocked when I contacted her after she finished her treatment so we could celebrate. Now, we had been in touch off and on during the process, but she somehow hadn’t thought that someone that had known her since she was 3 would want to celebrate the continuation of our friendship. She said it was like after she told people she got the “you’re done with treatment” people almost acted like it hadn’t happened. We went to a swanky restaurant for lunch, ordered something a little extravagant and after I made her swear she would tell me if she had any symptoms again, we caught up on all the life that had happened since our last lunch. Life goes on even for a patient with a serious condition, that needs to be a part of them too. Glad you’ve got folks that realize that surrounding you.

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  11. Judy

    This is, without a doubt, the best writing I have seen on this topic. Your words need to be taught in the school of life to everybody going through medical issues, family tragedies, and any other issue that causes grief, fear, the unknown. I sporadically read your blog; you now have a new regular reader.

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  12. Kim LeMere

    Thank you for being so honest with us on your diagnoses and how it is going. I look forward to your blog post, and I hope that you know we are here and we are listening to you and hoping we do make a difference. Love the positive attitude you have and all the support you are feeling from family/friends and the medical personal.

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  13. Nancy

    I seldom comment here, but I faithfully read your blog–morning and night. I just had to thank you for your candid blog today. It really is something I needed to hear. I am such a private person myself, that it is hard for me to know what others might want me to do or say when they are facing health issues. You have made me think and offered some wonderful words of wisdom–thank you. I admire your ability to share your life with your followers; I originally started reading your blog for the quilt stories (and still love that you are so generous with your information), but now equally enjoy your life stories. Thank you for your inspiration in all aspects: quilting, family, health issues, and all. Funny how we have never met, but so many of us feel close to you. So, of course, your cancer is a concern to all, but we feel that you are strong, have a great support system and caring readers. I will continue to keep you in my prayers and celebrate with you when you beat this!

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  14. Debbie B

    I think this post will enlighten many readers. Thanks for being so open about your journey and sharing what you have learned along the way. It helps us all to be better “humans”. I’m so glad you are doing well. Take care of yourself and I wish you continued success in your recovery. Hugs!!!

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  15. Adrienne

    I read and enjoy your blog twice each day and I rarely take the time to comment and thank you. I want you to know how much I appreciate that you feel you can share your struggles as well as your triumphs. Like all the other commentators… I’m rooting for you and don’t doubt that you will beat this!

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  16. Kim Webb

    I look forward to reading your blog everyday, most days twice. As I clicked on this morning early, I was very happy to find a new post. I read the post and then re-read it. I now find myself coming back to it and rereading it again as well as the article. I can say that this post has really gotten me thinking about what we do when we hear bad news whether it be a family member, friend, or someone that we don’t really know such as a blogger. I usually find myself in the category of not knowing what to say.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I read your blog because you have a knack for keeping it real no matter what the topic.

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  17. Joyce

    Jo, Thanks for saying what you did on your blog today. I know their are many out there who care but not for sure what to say. I Hope this message will help others and show with just a note that says ” I care” is all one has to do. I love how you wrote” I love” with many ways. This is what you are a caring loveable person. Prayers and Happy Quilting Day To You.

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  18. Lisa

    Jo – always keep in mind that how people react isn’t your problem, it’s theirs. Serious and/or tragic events bring out different sides of people, and not always for the best. We experienced almost exactly what you describe when our son died. We got our greatest support from people we didn’t know (a support group) and very little from the family and friends we had expected to help the most. It really was that people didn’t know what to say and were worried they would say the wrong thing, so they said nothing – which of course was the very worst thing. I tried to just wear my rose-colored glasses and give people the benefit of the doubt, but truthfully you have to put your energy and focus on YOU and not let others get to you. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

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  19. Paula S.

    Thanks for sharing, Jo. My sister is a cancer survivor and she said it made her appreciate what is really important in life like friends and family. She lost a few friends during her cancer treatment and they never got back to her. That is incredible to me, but it’s their loss because she is a person who we can learn so much from and is so much fun to be around!

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  20. vicki cooper

    thyroid cancer or any cancer for that matter did not define who I am or will be ….
    stay strong…. big hugs
    Vicki

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  21. Lori from Nebraska

    You have the best blog! It’s like I’m sitting at your kitchen table with you! I’m here holding your hands across the table saying, “I’m right here for you!” You have the attitude it takes to deal with whatever life throws at you! I’m so thankful I could throw fabric around with you last summer! ❤️

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  22. Kristy Wilkinson

    Jo- You really are an amazing person to share your life with us both the good and the challenging things. You have started a conversation today on a hard topic. It is exciting to see how you are having an impact on us, people who know a lot about you from your blog but we don’t get the chance to see you in person or give you a needed hug. Thank you for helping us understand what you are thinking and feeling. It will help us all to encourage those around us in similar situations. Your blog is one I don’t want to miss reading each day. You are loved and I know you give love freely. What an example to us all. Thanks for sharing your love with us. K-

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  23. Melanie

    I appreciate your thoughts about your cancer and others’ reactions/responses to it. I’m a breast cancer survivor and even so I feel like I don’t know what to say to someone I may see (who I don’t know) who is obviously going through some kind of treatment. I had complete strangers come up to me and say something. It was a little off-putting but I was always grateful because I know it took courage for them to approach someone they didn’t know simply to share their support and love. Honestly, the love and caring that I received made the whole process more of a positive than a negative. Sure there are not so fun parts but really my overall takeaway from the experience is more positive. I was a little baffled by those friends who didn’t say *anything* during the whole process (multi-year treatment). I have trouble with people who can’t put their own insecurities or fears aside to comfort someone else…….working on that. Also, like you, I allowed ZERO negative or horror stories about cancer or cancer treatment. NO ONE needs that!!! Those folks had to be shut out until I could handle their stories and ways of being. Thanks for sharing all of your thoughts about the processes and feelings you’re having. It’s helpful to me to hear that. Oh and one thought about the “accepting help from others”…..I’m that way too. But, you probably like to help others and get a really great feeling from doing that…….think of accepting help as allowing others to feel as great as you do when you help someone…..Can’t say I was successful at that but I tried to keep it in mind. I agree that people just coming and doing was really nice.

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  24. Valerie Boudier

    I am so sorry to hear this, I am an avid reader of your blog posts but don’t comment often, but had to reply to this post

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  25. Mary

    I had no idea and horrible that I hadn’t taken the time read you! My computer has a tendency to lock up on your blog for some reason.

    My husband had stage 3 colon cancer during the midst of home build it was discovered. You find out real quick what truly matters and what “friends” you have. My husband wanted as few of people to know as possible. He didn’t want sympathy or to put folks in the position of the reactions?? His chemo port is finally being removed tomorrow and he is a survivor! Life is good…and our relationship better. You wake up real quick to what really matters!

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  26. Linda

    Thank you for being so open and honest with us. You are someone I admire, and you are in my thoughts and prayers, Perhaps people do not know what to say, as you are really great at communicating and they may feel intimidated. It really is a good time to sort out relationships. Keep up your positive attitude

    Reply

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