Having cancer there has been a lot of things that have scared me, such as chemo, radiation, and surgery. But what really scared me was the thought of attending a support group. Now I know how funny that sounds considering all that I have listed, but you have to understand a few things about me in order for this to make any sense.
First of all, I’m a social worker by trade and usually the one running a support group, not participating in one. Being the person that takes care of others, I find it incredibly uncomfortable when those roles are reversed. I notice myself paying way to much attention to whomever is running the group, observing how they manage the members and what techniques they use. Its like they say, “ you can’t social work a social worker.”
Secondly, I have found that a lot of my fellow stage 4 cancer brethren to be very religious. Now, please understand that I have no problem with religion or anyone that finds comfort and solace in it. I honestly feel whatever helps someone get through the day whether it’s religion, mediation, or even blogging (that one is mine), go for it!! On the other hand, I do know attending a support group that’s completely dipped in Jesus would be very unhelpful to me, maybe even a little scary.
Lastly, sitting around with people that know what you’re going through and can call you on your shit, makes it very difficult to continue my act that “all is sunshine and roses”. In other words, you’re forced to talk about all the stuff that you spend most of your day pushing down. There is nowhere to hide when you are sitting and listening to someone else speak about the questions that haunt us all. How long will I live, do I make plans for the future, and how can I make this easier on my loved ones.
Now, after all is said and done, I have realized that trying to deal with my diagnosis by myself is stupid and even though the thought of a support group freaks me out I need to go.
I attended my first support group and was happily surprised that it was not all about religion and I didn’t spend the entire time during group watching the mediator. I did, however, find myself staring at the clock when I became uncomfortable, which the woman running the group quickly figured to be my tell and would take that opportunity to ask me how I was doing (tricky lady!!). I did find a great deal of comfort in the group, even though everyone had a different cancer we all faced the same struggle. I found that everything being said I could relate to.
I won’t lie, it was difficult for me to let go and allow myself to listen and take it all in at times. I left that day feeling like I have been wandering around in a trance. I have heard myself say “I’m doing just fine” so many times that I even began to believe it. The truth is I’m not fine! I’m sad, angry and scared everyday. I have no idea how long I have or how to live without thinking about the future. It’s been very difficult for me to figure out where I belong. Up until a few months ago I had a full time job that I loved, and gave me a great sense of purpose. Now I have doctor appointments, scans and medication to take.
Someone in the group said something that really resonated with me. He said, “I don’t want cancer to be my job.” I feel that I have allowed cancer to take over and it’s time to regain some balance. I know I will always struggle with the unanswerable questions of the future, but I’m going to make a concentrated effort to regain my balance and purpose, but until then I do know one thing. I’m going back to my support group.