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(Neil Young reference)

A Caregiver Vignette 07/28/08:

My son and I were watching a baseball game tonight, BoSox v Yankees. Jon Lester, the Sox pitcher, is a survivor, having beaten a lymphoma of some sort that I had not heard of. They kept talking about how he had to do a lot of rehab to work his body back in to shape, particularly his legs, following chemotherapy, and that he is an amazing story. I certainly sympathize with that, empathize with that.

Sometimes these stories bother me, to be honest with you. I guess it’s because it seems you have to be famous to be a courageous survivor. That is almost certainly something evil in me, but it will not go away.

In this case, though, I have not heard a great deal about Lester’s story, other than within the context of the game. He seems to want to put it behind him and move on, and I find that heroic, weird guy that I am. (Even though I am clearly not putting it behind me, am I? 🙂 )

But they kept saying he was ‘cured’ and I do not know if he is or not, although I know that it is possible to be cured, and I am hopeful that this is the case for the young man.

In the meantime, my son, who has lived through two cancers with me (mine, not his), and all that goes with that, calmly remarked that no one is ever cured of cancer. He went on to say that you can fight it off, but it will get you in the end.

This is not a child, but a 24-year old man. His grandmother died of cancer, three of his great aunts died of cancer, one of his aunts is a cancer survivor, and he has been listening to me through better and worse for all of this time, watching the strong dad he grew up with become a rather weak facsimile for months and months at a time, still not back to that guy who could coach a soccer team or beat up his son’s friends if he needed to :).

I was at first astounded and even bordering on angry, but quickly realized that my son has been living with this fear that I am dying now, that I cannot be cured, and living with it for some time. I am left with ‘astounded’. I did not know.

And that is the pain of the caregiver, I think, in a nutshell. I am living and hoping and fighting and assuming that I am going to beat this and move on, and he is seeing his Dad in various models of weakness.

He doesn’t see what I consider the brave fight. He sees the melting weight. He doesn’t see what I consider the courage. He sees the illness he had never seen before. He doesn’t see what I consider the determination. He sees the guy who can’t do what he used to do.

To be honest, I’m fairly certain he does see the things that I see. But he sees beyond them, or perhaps behind them, to a past where I was robust and healthy and cocksure and hard working, strong and smart.

And doesn’t see them ahead of me.

Sometimes I do not see them ahead of me either. So I cannot complain.

I can lament for him, for his pain and for his misunderstanding and for his strong concern and for the robbery of normalcy. I can do that. And I can try to straighten him out. I can do that. I can prove him wrong. I can do that.

I hope.