Sunday Post 160: Got My Umbrella, I’m Ready for Rain

I recently had the opportunity to sit on a panel for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. We explored the topic of children who have a parent with cancer. We spoke and answered questions in front of about 1,000 oncologists.
One of our main points was to help them understand their necessary role in helping the entire family cope with cancer. Helping them understand how important it is for them to be honest without taking away hope, preparing parents for all potential outcomes – even death.
I work at the YMCA, and we don’t even like to tell people we canceled a Zumba class. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to tell a family that mom or dad could die.
And yet, what a gift they give when they allow us to prepare.
I wish every family would have the tough conversations before they face a true tragedy. It is much easier to prepare for death when there is no reason to believe you’re going to die.
One of the panelists likened this planning to taking an umbrella with you on a cloudy day. Your hair looks nice, you’re wearing suede shoes – you hope it doesn’t rain.  But if it does, wouldn’t you be glad you took the umbrella?
If everyone would answer a few simple questions before something critical happened, they would be much more ready for the rain.  Or in our case, the monsoon.
1)  Do you have adequate life insurance?  If one spouse died, would the other be financially secure?
2)  What is most important in the culture of your family?   For me, and I hope Lisa, although we never discussed it, our family must have:  honesty/transparency, kindness to self and others, and humor.

If someone else ends up raising my kids, those are the three most important things I want them to live by.  Besides faith, which is understood in our family, that is what I want their foundation to be built on.

3)  Does each spouse understand the role of the other?  Can the father log onto the school website and does he know how to plan a birthday party?  Does the mother have the ability or resources to do the taxes.  Those examples may seem sexist, but I chose them based solely on my family’s experience.

Yeah, oncologists have a responsibility to be open and forthcoming with patients. But not all of us will die from cancer.  We may get hit by a bus. We may outlive our children.

Now that I know it can pour on a bright and sunny day, I ain’t leaving home without my rain gear.


Sunday Post 68: Yet Another One

Posted by Danny

It won’t stop. 

Virtually every single week someone else in my circle is stricken with cancer. 

Two weeks ago a friend at church passed on a prayer request:  a 36-year-old mother of three young boys had just been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.

Last week I was eating lunch at Pam’s Farmhouse and ran into an old friend.

“How ya’ getting along?” I casually asked after a great big hug.

“I’m struggling.  Cancer in my back, just like your wife.”

Shit.  Another one.

And this week, my neighbor who came to my house at 1:30 am to sit with my kids on February 24, 2009, when I headed to Duke to tell Lisa goodbye, has been taken to Hospice.  His cancer won’t stop – it’s finally beaten down one of the physically strongest men I know.

I used to hear about folks struggling with illness and toss-up a quick prayer.  In one ear, out the other.  The obligatory appeal to the man upstairs.

It had to be someone mighty close to me to register long-term in my mind.  I just didn’t get it.  I just couldn’t comprehend how cruel disease could be, how deeply one could hurt.

I guess I got a good dose of understanding.   And now that I know, now that I’ve been there, I feel their pain so deeply – so intensely.  Even those I’ve never met.

Maybe I liked it better before.  Maybe it was easier not knowing how deeply the wound could be.

Or maybe I’m better.  Not better emotionally, but a better person.  More able to empathize.  More able to feel.  More able to walk beside –

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