“Imaginative Caregiving for the Cancer Patient”

While conversations rarely penetrate the bell jar of my self-containment, inventive forms of caregiving do.

“After the drama of diagnosis passes and the preliminary offers of assistance dissipate, a few hardy souls hang in with cancer patients for the long haul. If we are lucky, they tender surprisingly creative acts and gifts.

“Imaginative caregiving is welcome because of the debilitation of prolonged treatment but also because of the barrage of clichéd responses patients receive from chance acquaintances. There I am, minding my own business in the drugstore, when someone pops up: “My aunt had your kind of cancer and died in two months.” “You don’t look sick!” “Did you eat red meat?” “The good Lord never gives us more than we can bear.” Those of us with chronic disease learn to block out this type of noise.

“In the process of sidelining inane comments, though, we may exacerbate the loneliness of the long-distance cancer patient, for dealing with the disease can be an isolating business. Colleagues in social situations can be tongue-tied about my condition, afraid of saying the wrong thing or respectful of my privacy. At a reception, I retreat into myself because of an unspeakable physical problem: a rash, a swelling, a hidden bag, enervating but boring fatigue, invisible neuropathies or joint pain. I feel further quarantined by an overwhelming consciousness of impending mortality that healthy men and women often cannot comprehend or desperately want to flee.”

To read the full article on The New York Times click here.

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