Friday, March 25, 2011

Rough Patch

The last couple days have been pretty rough emotionally. Not so much related to the progression of the cancer, but as to how the family deals with it. Specifically, the emotional impact when outlook and emotional coping strategies vary.

Cancer doesn't just happen to the person, it affects everyone in the family and also the concentric circles around the core family from most intimate family and friends to passing acquaintances. Within the family, we are all trying to cope. But each in his or her own way. As the cancer patient, Meagan is choosing to approach the disease with spirit, hope, optimism and an attitude of - she will prevail. She surrounds herself with a loving network of support.

I've supported that approach, because I believe that is what she needs. Privately, I can hold other concepts in my head, around the probabilities and outcomes, and substituting absolute statements ('we will prevail'), with relative statements ('we will persevere'). The internal dichotomy is challenging at times. Challenging for a relatively mature adult, capable of holding nuanced views and managing the stress of internal inconsistencies.

For our boys, it's harder still. They are each on their own life path, and dealing with the things normal at this time - identity, life's meaning and purpose, strengths and weaknesses, and potential career paths. Throw in a mom with a life threatening disease, and it ain't easy. It's a huge wrench thrown into what is already a difficult time. In so many ways the boys have been supportive and demonstrated a wisdom and maturity of years far beyond what I would have expected. We've also learned that we've made mistakes in trying to 'protect them', instead of dealing with certain matters head on. Yet by doing that, it puts at risk the view that Meagan has about the course of the disease and what individual milestones mean (scan results, treatment results, future treatment success probabilities).

Figuring out how to 'balance' what they need - clear communication, unvarnished with positive spin, and a more 'realistic' view of possible trajectory - with what Meagan needs - is uncharted territory. So quite simply there is a clash of styles and views, and in the course of loving and productive discussions, it can bring out a lot of fear and raw emotion. It's not about right or wrong. But we are treading on thin ice, and struggling to find ways to express needs and reconcile those.

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