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(Rod Stewart reference)

Wow. Never thought I’d get caught making a Rod Stewart reference! Times do change!

I am still not a fan of his, do not get me wrong, but the line is so appropriate to what I want to write about.

I could have used Tammy Wynette’s D-I-V-O-R-C-E, or any number of love ’em and leave ’em songs, but I think none bring quite the zing as one that says, hey get up, I have something to say, and you are not going to like it, not quite like this one.

Okay, there are better songs but not better lines. Let’s not argue that point. Let’s leave it at that.

The deal is, we are talking about someone just deciding that it is time to leave. In our case, the reason is cancer.

I hear it, or read it, all of the time. Let’s get something straight right away, however: it is not the norm but the exception. If you have been following along, you know that most caregivers hang in for the long haul. Why, I do not know. But they do.

Okay, I suspect I know. I suspect that they actually love us, believe it or not. I know! It took me awhile to buy into that, too! But I think it’s true! How else would they put up with us, I ask you, even if you are the best looking woman or man on the planet, even if you do make a million or two every month or so. Caring for cancer survivors sucks. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. If they are hanging, they are loving, folks.

They are loving me, they are loving you. We have a hard time accepting that. We think we are deformed or something, we think we are weak and we think we are frail, but no, we are loved.


Sometimes the other one, the expected caregiver, that person bolts. A husband, a wife, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, hell, even parents, even friends, it’s amazing, sometimes, who bolts.

Someone said to me that they didn’t blame them for being afraid of cancer, and I replied, “They are not always afraid of cancer. They are often afraid of tragedy.”

That is so true. We were talking of all of them, all who head for the door when you find out you have cancer and who never come back. It is not because they think you are contagious, sometimes, but because their concern for you is beyond their ability to cope.

Can you understand that? I just now figured it out.


When my mom died, I was in the den where she was lying on a gurney when it happened. I was sleeping on the floor next to her when my dad woke me and said she was gone. We woke the rest of the family, of course, and I remember little of the rest of that morning, that dark morning, except for the medical examiner coming and warning my sisters about breast cancer, except about us ending up out in the pool room, shooting pool and shooting darts and drinking beer while we waited for what was to come. Except for my dad’s ominous note that one of was not yet dealing with this and would know later, or some such.

It was me, I think. He was talking about me. My mom’s oldest son (and his too), all of that, and how I seemed to shrug it off and move on immediately when it happened. It was me. I think.

And so we come back to it: removing ourselves from tragedy. And how we do it. And what the consequences are, down the road. Not just for the survivor, but for the caregivers.

I think I broadened the scope of this without meaning to. Let me get back on point.

First, if a spouse or significant other leaves in your most critical time, it is probably a good thing. It is probable that cancer was not the real issue, and it is likely that you are better off without that person in your life.

Think about that, if you will. You have lived with this person, I presume, in a relationship based on trust, and suddenly he or she is gone. Where is the trust?

Most people I know who have gone through this are fairly insistent that it was the best thing that could have happened to them. It was NOT the cancer, it was the relationship that was bad. In an odd way, the cancer saved them, allowed them to live thereafter free of a poor union. I am serious. If you were in such a relationship, please consider this, that the disease may have helped you in the long run.

Second, cancer does scare people, and most often it is the fear of tragedy, as I mentioned above. It may not be a lack of love that makes them run but an abundance of it. That may sound wishy-washy, but consider it. Talk about it, if it is not too late. Some people are not tough enough to handle tragedy, some people love too much to handle it. Consider it.

I am not being sentimental here. I mean it. Many of us run from tragedy. Not from cancer, but from tragedy.

It doesn’t make it right (or wrong) but it makes some things make more sense for some of us.

It is, of course, all the more reason to admire the ones who stick it out and who do whatever needs to be done to carry us through. There is no doubt about that, and I am not making excuses for the ones who bolt.

Okay, I am. To some degree.

Mostly, though, if they bolt, there were other issues. That is the bottom line. Cancer became an excuse in most cases, and you are better off without the guy or gal who bolted.

The friends thing, that gets right back to the tragedy effect. When your friends seem to leave you in droves, it is not your breath, it is not that you are contagious (although some of them seem to act like you are and may even believe it). No. Most of the time it is that fear of tragedy.

They do not want to see you die. They do not want to see you dying. Can you blame them? Hell yeah.

But still, it’s a valid excuse, and one they will not use in public or to you directly. Some of them run because they do not want to be a part of the demise of someone they care for, someone they love. And they do not understand cancer, just as you did not when it first entered your life, so they assume that you will die, just as you did when you first heard you had cancer. And, thus, they run.

Can you blame them?

Of course you can.

But it will do you no good.

Others, it is true, are not happy about the potential inconvenience. Root them out, if they do not root themselves out (they will) and lose them immediately. Those who love and care for you will be there for you, regardless.

When I was going through the radiation following my first surgery in October of 2005, soccer moms and family friends made a point to get on the schedule, to pick me up in the morning to get me to my favorite sport, wearing the death mask. They waited for me, they took me home afterwards.

You learn who your friends are.

I’m not sure I got this right. I may need to revisit it. Something tells me I strayed back again to myself when I was trying to talk about others.