Those who know me would agree that I am very rarely lost for words, but since entering the world of cancer I find that happens quite frequently. Even after all my experience there still comes a time when I am unsure what to say. Of course I don’t let that show, because cancer conversations can be difficult for both parties, but there are times when I reflect and wonder if I should have changed something that I had just said. Sometimes a little silence in a conversation is not always a bad thing, but I know that there will always be valuable things left unsaid on both sides.
Some of the most tricky conversations can be within families, where people can find it incredibly difficult to share their deepest fears and anxieties, with their loved ones. I know when I was facing some of my darkest times, I just didn’t want to communicate my personal fear, to my family, being concerned that they would be frightened too. I felt I needed to stay strong for everyone else. My wife still tells me different today, but that was my natural reaction, to try and protect those around me from showing how scared I had become.
In my own case I saw the issues as a husband and father, but didn’t really think about how my family saw things. At that time, it was all about me! But of course it wasn’t, they had their feelings too, and my first instinct was to try and protect them. But in our conversations since, they didn’t want protecting, they just wanted to know the truth!
As I have mentioned many times my work helps me meet some incredible people and Chloé is one of those. She is doing some work with how society likes to label us, and cancer came up as one of the biggest labels we use.
Deep into our conversation it transpired that Chloé regretted when her father was going through his cancer she didn’t understand the emotional turmoil he was going through. For her, the best way to communicate her emotions were to write them down, so she has written this below letter to help herself and family understand what she was going through all those years ago.
I’ll never forget the summer of 2005. It was the first time that you shared your vulnerability and fear of the fragility of life. I knew that everything would be fine; however, I did not take into account the label of cancer. You saw the label as a sentence of your time shortening in this world.
I was being rational and not empathetic enough because the cancer was not terminal and common for men to have. I didn’t understand the fear. All I knew was that I will need to be the strong one for you while you were fragile, by reducing my care, to show you that it wasn’t serious in order to try to convenience you that all will be okay.
Towards the end of the summer, I learned that cancer isn’t just a serious illness to the body, but in the spirit and mind. I didn’t know this well enough to support you. What was happening in your mind was wanting to live longer for me. While you were swallowed and surrounded by fear of death, I wasn’t reaching my hand far enough since my mind was being dedicated with statistics that you will be okay soon.
This all changed the day of your surgery. While waiting with Mum during your surgery, LA was hit with a blackout. For a moment, the hospital went black for about 10 seconds. I suddenly felt as if I joined you in the fear pool. For the first time, I was more than ever scared of losing you.
Mum and I went into the prayer room in the hospital, in a way to avoid the doctor telling us some grim news if we were to stay in the waiting room. I sat in the dark room just praying and hoping all will be well.
I knew we couldn’t hide any longer in the room. We returned to the waiting room. The doctor came out and said you were going to be okay, surgery was successful, and the cancer was gone. However, he also mentioned that if the electricity went out a few minutes before, we would be having a different conversation.
I’m truly sorry that I was not the daughter you needed during your cancer. I will always feel like I could’ve been more there for you throughout the summer of 2005. I let rationality take over versus empathy.
The possibility of losing you changed me forever. I promise to do my best to be near and support you throughout this life. I will always be thankful to the universe that you survived the surgery during the blackout and the cancer. I couldn’t be more blessed and thankful to have you as my father. I love you always and forever, Dad.
With all my love,
I would like to thank Chloé for sharing her extremely personal story with us and you can find more of her incredible work here. What I would like to highlight is that with one cancer diagnosis, so many other people can be affected. In many cases the psychological and emotional impact can stay with us forever! This side of things can do more harm than the physical effects of cancer. As always, please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences below.