Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cancer Lessons

This has been a year of intense learning for me. A few weeks ago it was discovered that I had some spots of skin cancer on my face. The first thing I learned is that many, many people have been through this. Skin cancer is like the common cold and is treated just as easily. For that I am very grateful. To get rid of the spots, the doctor gave me a chemo cream that I simply rub on them. He warned me that at first it would turn red, but then it would fester and scab and I’d look like I had leprosy. He was right.

There are now two ugly spots on my face, one large and one small, that are absolutely grotesque. Here’s where the second thing I learned comes in. At first it was difficult to go out in public. I can’t cover the wounds with bandages or dressings because of the position they are in. The large one is in the outside corner of my right eye and goes around and down onto my cheek. The other is on the top lip. I feel bad for people who have to look at me, like my students. Some people would just not go out in public, but I can’t do that. So I determined that when I encountered people, I’d send them as much love as I could exude so that they’d feel the love instead of the shock at what they saw. So when they stare, I smile (even though it hurts to smile because the scabs crack) and just love. It has been very interesting to watch people’s reactions. Some turn away embarrassed. Some awkwardly pretend they don’t notice. Their eyes strain to look elsewhere, but keep darting back to the spots on my face. Some make eye contact and accept the love I am sending, and send love back. Some relax from the awkward how-shall-I-handle-this state to she’s-not-embarrassed-why–should-I-be state. Usually those people then simply ask, “What happened?” And I tell them.

Like all of you, I’ve been on both sides of these kinds of situations. But another thing I’ve learned is that I appreciate people who sincerely and simply ask, “What happened?” and let me explain. The problem is that not everyone appreciates that kind of response and so the rest of us don’t know what to do or say. So I’d like to pose two questions. (1) When something like this happens to you, how do you like others to respond? And (2) If we were all living in Truth, what would be the response? Or would there be only one? Leave your comments and let me know what you think.

14 comments:

Paula Harline said...

I feel that your idea to exude love is working because the last time I saw you, I forgot about a mark I noticed near your eye when I first saw you. Since reading your Facebook entry and blog, I realize that the last time I saw you at your front door, I noticed something by your eye but didn't say anything. After that initial note, I totally forgot about it because we were involved in interesting discussions and I felt your love and grace and the mark must have just disappeared.

Sometimes when I worry about something on my face, I realize that I don't notice or (if I DO notice) don't care about those things in others, so I shouldn't be so hard on myself. If people are smiling at me, that's what I remember.

Wendi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wendi said...

Wow! You have really had a tough year! I think you've handled it just perfectly. Nothing like a smile and a loving, truthful response to put people at ease. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you've had to go through yet again, another health problem this year. Sometimes things just pile up, but it does pass in time. I also think that people do often realize what they're seeing is cancer, but is it the one you can cure with the cream or is it melonoma, which is very dangerous. We all are so frightened by cancer that we often don't know what to say or whether to say anything at all. Because you handle it in such a positive way it reassures people and then they can relax and interact with you. I think it is important for others to see that people have these scary ailments and get through them with a good outcome. I appreciate the truthful responses where someone will openly sympathise by encouraging or complimenting your handling of your situation. To me, that is facing the truth of the situation while being positive. Some of the sweetest things have been said to me while standing in line at the grocery store! It also lets other people close by who may really not know what to say or do see that simple interaction works well and is easy and comfortable to do. And in your case, no one can resist your smile and loving ways, so it becomes even easier. I hope it all clears up soon. xoxoxo
Cathie

Christie said...

I would always rather someone ask...about anything, really. I always have the option of responding with "thanks for asking, but let's not talk about that"...and said with the love you are talking about, no one need take any offense. Is it kind of like avoiding talking about a loved one who has died to the person grieving because we think THAT helps them? We talked in Sunday School last week about Stephen Covey suggesting we filter things we say with "is it true, is it necessary and is it kind?" I'll have to look into the context within which he said that a little more before figuring out it applies. Love to you....

Julie said...

Sherrie, I don't know if you ever were in touch with my friend Heidi who had a similar brain tumor as yours. She had surgery at the Huntsman Cancer Center on Thursday. They removed the tumor and feel that it might have live cancer cells in it. Her blog tells her story very similar to yours. The faith and strength of both of you are an inspiration to many. Just thought I would let you know her sitation today. If you were in touch you of all people would understand her emotions. Hope your face cancer leaves soon. You are an amazing sister, we love you.

Aubrey said...

I'm a new follower, and I LOVE your blog. You are an inspiration. I admire your courage and faith in the midst of adversity.

I would like to let you know about "Health Quarters Ministries" located in Colorado Springs, CO. http://www.healthquarters.org/. They have an excellent lodge program and have helped my grandma (she'll be 89 in January) be in remission from her bone marrow cancer for 16 years. Maybe they can be of some help to you in your fight to regain your health.

Hugs!

SMJ said...

Paula, Thanks for the beautiful insight. I too think it is true that a persons attitude and love shown for us make us forget any imperfections in the way they look. I think that before I thought this, but this experience has moved the thought from my head to my heart so that now I KNOW it. Thanks for stopping by-you are wonderful!

SMJ said...

Wendi, It has been a great time of learning! And you put your finger on one of the things I've learned!

SMJ said...

Cathie, I'm glad you are back and all right! You have been through so much in your own fight with cancer and other health issues and yet have such a sweet, comforting spirit. You are amazing!

SMJ said...

Christie, I agree with you. I think that being upset because someone asks a sincere question is a way of taking offense. I like what you added from Covey. Thanks for the insights.

SMJ said...

Julie, I tried to make contact with Heidi when you told me about her, but was unable to. I did read her blog at that time, but have lost the URL. I pray that she will be all right and that they got it all. Thanks for your kind words. xoxoxo

SMJ said...

Aubrey, Welcome! I love new readers and people who leave comments. Without comments it's like I'm talking to the mirror! I'd rather have interaction. And thanks for the information about the health center. I'll check it out.

Cathy said...

I think that if I were going through something outwardly noticeable I would welcome questions and the opportunity to accept the concern and love of others. Even questions of curiosity would be welcomed. That's just me, ask me anything, age, weight, etc., I am an open book! I will be praying for you Sherrie.