The day doctors confirmed my grandfather had cancer, I cried in the bathroom at work, finished off the following hour in the office, then left early, unable to truly focus. I went straight home to buy him tea. A few weeks prior, my mom mentioned my grandpa really enjoyed tea I had given he and my grandmother, which I purchased here in London, but I couldn’t remember what type of tea it was to save my life. So I did what any sensible person would do: I spent $100 on different varieties of tea and shipped it to them. That’s right, my first instinct upon hearing my grandfather’s diagnosis was to send him tea.
Even thinking about it now, a few weeks on, I can’t help but think how strange of a reaction that was. But in my head, it was an action. It was something I could do to help from afar, albeit a very small action with seemingly little impact. All I could think was ‘what will make my grandparents smile during such a traumatic time?’. Hundreds of tea bags would do the trick, I thought. I think it did… but it still doesn’t feel like enough. Which begs the question – what would be enough?
For those of you following the snippets of my life that I serve up via blog post, you’ll know I’ve been dealt a number of awful cards in my time on this earth. Just in the last year alone, I’ve faced a slew of horrific ordeals and hovering unknowns. I thought I was closing the book on the majority of these issues when my husband had life-changing surgery about 8 weeks ago. It’s been a slow recovery, but he’s on the mend and his quality of life has sky-rocketed into positivity. I know now, however, that I was not closing the book, but simply a chapter, as I face another seriously stressful and scary situation happening to yet another person I love.
I’ve been in this situation before: far away from someone I care about dealing with a scary health problem. It doesn’t get any easier. But whether I’m there or here, it still impacts me the same. I’m scared and I want to help, but I’m hyper aware that there really isn’t much I can do. So here I am, continuing on with life as if I don’t have something else heavily weighing down my conscience, feeling helpless and isolated.
I’ve kept this subject quiet for quite some time. My grandfather fell ill a few months ago, and that’s when the subject of cancer came up. But cancer is horrifying. I refused to believe it was even a possibility until I received categoric confirmation. I couldn’t let it impact my work life because my situation with my husband had already interfered heavily. I couldn’t bear having to admit to my superiors or colleagues that, yes, here I was again dealing with yet another medical nightmare. But more importantly, I didn’t want anyone to pity me. I know I don’t give myself much credit, but I know I’m strong. I’ve handled terrible situations with a level of grace I’m still not sure is my own, so surely I could put my brave face back on to get through another workday.
My grandfather is the toughest guy I know. I’ve always said he’s too stubborn to die, and I still very much believe it (hope you’re reading this, Papa!). I’m so glad he’s got my grandmother to help him through this journey, despite the scary health issues she’s enduring herself. I fully believe in the power of love, and how this magic ingredient helps so many of us pull through each and every day. I only wish I could be there, in person, to help them both. They’re such an integral part of my life, and I feel like I’m doing them a disservice being thousands of miles away. But here I am.
I don’t want pity and I don’t particularly want to discuss this subject with anyone because it’s still raw… so why the heck am I writing about it, you ask? Well, it’s simple: I want people to understand that we’re all dealing with things behind closed doors. That not everything is as it appears. I beg you to please be kind to people, always, no matter your own circumstance. I can’t count the number of times I’d return home from a rather rough day at work, shouldering the weight of others’ roles plus the mental anguish I was already juggling, collapse into tears and wonder if maybe had I expressed what was happening in my personal life, I’d earn some compassion from others. But I didn’t want to talk about it. I still don’t want to talk about it. I shouldn’t feel like I have to pour my heart out just so people will be nice to me. I was taught to be kind, so why can’t I be granted the same courtesy?
Look, I’m not here to complain. Life has a tendency of kicking you in the teeth, but you still have to get back up to finish the day. I’m the poster child of this! But I’m also not too proud to admit that I’m tired. I’ve not had time to bounce back from my husband’s ordeal, who still has a number of months of recovery ahead of him. Yet here I am, still trucking along, dealing with every little thing the universe throws my way. Not always in the best way perhaps, but I’m getting through the mess the only way I know how.
I don’t know what the future holds. If I’ve learned anything in the last few years, it’s certainly that life has a way of keeping you on your toes. I like to think I’ve navigated the obstacles well, but it’s hard to say. The only thing I seem to have any control over is how I deal with all of this – and how I choose to allow it to affect my life and the people around me. And most importantly, I’ve learned to keep going. I’ve wanted to throw in the towel so, so many times and just crawl into bed and never leave. But I haven’t. And I haven’t stopped laughing or spending time with friends, I haven’t neglected work or failed to help out my husband. I haven’t given up. I won’t give up. My grandparents haven’t, so I think I’ll follow their lead.
Anyone can slay a dragon. Try waking up every morning and loving the whole world again. That’s what takes a real hero.