There is a new member in my Cancer Club. She is the daughter of a friend: 20+ female, married, brain cancer 6 years ago, clean the past 5 years, back with cancer this year (hopefully not for long).
And it occured to me that, a disease (any disease in fact), creates 2 categories of persons: in one category, there is a single soul known as the patient and in the other, there is a little army of souls which I will call the bearers.
Now, being a patient is not exactly fun. You suffer physically or emotionally or sometimes both in your body and in your mind/soul at the same time. Depending on how sick you are, you can vaccillate between being the sweetest thing on earth to the worst living breathing monster that even Hollywood has not yet created! As a patient, there is often not much you can do, except to be a patient patient. That can be hell!
So, sometimes, to cope in those moments of hitting the pits of hell, you claw at yourself and at others. But since you are the patient, you are forgiven all the blood that was shed and loved and even encouraged to claw some more if that helps in making you feel better!. You end up feeling quite kingly/queenly....though still in hell.
Now, the other folks (the bearers) are not in an enviable position either. They are unfortunately the ones that bear the sickness that you are experiencing.
Once a disease hits the patient, the bearers prepare for war. They go out to fight the monster eating you in every possible way imaginable. Family and friends rally behind you. They root for you. They put aside their own lives for your life. They will miss meals, forgo sleep, take leave from work, call you every night to check on you and generally put up with all your whims and caprices, just so you can feel better. They will be your chauffeur, your personal shopper, your cook, your maid, your nurse, your slave, anything you want them to be. And they do it selflessly, lovingly, willingly. Even obsessively.
All this is beautiful you may say. But the tough part is, bearers have their own versions of hell. When you watch your loved one whimper with pain, see their dreams being snatched from them, witness their lives being written in months instead of years, it can be the most helpless feeling a human being experiences. And that is hell too.
My bearers are Alhamdulillah many and have done some amazing feats :).
From accompanying me to a series of doctors to clasping my hand and crying with me and for me when the bad news hit, from hugging me tightly to providing me with their children for comfort/laughter, from paying my bills to talking long hours with me at night so I don't freak out, from holding my drip bottle while I pee at the clinic to googling headcovers for me...I could go on and on.
The thing is any patient needs that little army. One person is simply not enough. Taking care of a sick loved one is not only hard, it is also a rather complicated business. The trick is to know your role in the army and execute it. For instance, in my case, my father is the designated driver, my mom is the priamry nurse, my sister (the funny bone in the family) provides the laughter, my other sister provides the reality check, my friends provide the right dose of socialising/entertaining, etc etc.
So all in all, we're all in some form of hell...we journey to it pretty much against our wills but if we're lucky enough to be given a return ticket, the journey back can be smooth and even pleasant with some well organised division of labour from the bearers and a bit of patience from the patient.
The rest will take care of itself.