The Golden Rule
In the Gospel of Matthew he says, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets”
The Gospel of St. Luke has “Do to others as you would have them do to you”
Buddhists say “hurt not others with that with pains yourself”
Jewish Talmud says “what is hurtful to yourself, do not to your fellow man” (or woman, child, animal, etc.)
Hindu Mahabharata says “do naught to others which if done to thee would cause thee pain”
Why do I bring up these versions of The Golden Rule? Because it is a worthy way to live.
When I consider those that I have met managing their life with cancer, I have offered ill-fitting suggestions that started off with “you should try this…” or “have you tried…” I had never experienced cancer to that point directly; only what had been shared by others or read or heard about. I now realize how wrong I was. It would have been so much better to just listen and be there for the other person.
Every single person who has cancer has a very unique path. There is no ONE single protocol, no one way of getting chemotherapy. Nothing is the same for any one person. This is a myth that needs to be dispelled. What your mom, aunt, father, brother, coworker, neighbor or anyone else you have ever met has gone through, has been different. I have yet to meet one person with cancer during my chemo treatments who have anything similar to one another. One of my drugs is red and looks like koolaid. Not one single person in the 20 or so I share my day has koolaid in their treatments. And side-effects, I have learned every one has very different experiences.
I share this because I have not been the kind of friend others needed as my own experiences have shown me being on the opposite end now. I was talking with my friend Miriam a while back. Her mom is recovering from breast cancer. She recommended a book to me that she thought would help me to see that how I feel is how others with cancer have felt. That my guilt for cancelling plans, or having no desire to talk on the phone or to anyone for that matter, or being frustrated, or angry, or sad is all normal. My therapist tells me similar things but somehow, I just didn’t believe it. The guilt I have for not being more social with people and not accepting every invitation has been incredibly hard for me. Cancelling even more so.
The book by Lori Hope, Help Me Live: 20 Things People with Cancer Want You to Know, is based on the author’s work with those with cancer,those who have survived cancer, and those therapists who have helped those with cancer. I wanted to share the 20 things because I think it helps everyone — friend, caregiver, cancer patient, family member — to more readily understand this oddly traumatic, scary, and surreal experience. Please do not believe that any one of the below is directed at you, the reader, because nothing could be further from the truth.
- It’s okay to say or do the wrong thing
- I need to know you’re here for me (and if you aren’t, why not)
- I like to hear success stories, not the horror stories
- I am terrified (Anissa note: this is an understatement)
- I need you to listen to me and let me cry
- Asking my permission can spare my pain
- I need to forget – to laugh
- I need to feel hope
- Telling me to think positively can make me feel worse
- I want you to trust my judgement and my treatment decisions
- I want compassion, not pity; comfort, not advice
- I am more than cancer; treat me kindly, not differently
- I want you to help without my asking you to (Anissa note: this is true in some cases, but for the most part, I would prefer to ask for help. I know, how do you know the difference? I don’t know)
- I like to be held in your thoughts or prayers
- My mood changes day-to-day; please forgive me if I snap at you (Anissa note: mine seem to change quite a bit more frequently than that, like hourly!! And I am sorry if I am not always my usual self)
- Hearing platitudes or what’s good about cancer can trivialize my feelings
- I don’t know why I got cancer and I don’t want to hear your theory
- I need you to understand if I don’t return you call or want to see you (Anissa note: it is truly NOT personal)
- I want my caregiver to take good care of herself or himself
- I don’t know if I’m cured, and bringing up my health can bring me down (Anissa note: sometimes it’s nice to be asked; other times, I wish it weren’t brought up. The hard part – how would you know which? I don’t know)
There was a postcard on Postsecret on Sunday that I truly related to. No, I do not have a terminal cancer, but cancer is cancer. The hell that I have gone through has been just that. I am ever grateful that I will most likely not be getting chemotherapy for ten years like some wonderful people I have met. I truly have no idea how they do it. Will it ever be gone for good, not according to my oncologists. I will have to be ever diligent for signs of its return in the future AFTER they tell me it’s in remission. Yes, they tell me, one day, I will say those words. Regardless, what I have gone through has not been a privilege. It has not made me see “the light” and will live my life completely differently. I don’t know why either, so please don’t ask. I know that I believe in myself and my future as much as I ever did but I will never say the words “cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me,” nor do I want to.
I believe the Golden Rule would really help me – as a friend and as a person with cancer. But if that doesn’t work for you, how about laughter is the medicine? We all know how much I enjoy to laugh 🙂