Destroying A Taboo

quote Willa Cather

I prefer advising you upfront: this post will be quite personal. It’s a general topic. It’s something I think we will all be facing at least one time in our life. It still is something very personal, very touching. I’m talking about cancer and its taboo.

Not so long ago, I reached out to a friend of mine I hadn’t heard from in a long time. I was wondering what he was up to and if life was good to him. I was so glad to finally see his name appearing on my Facebook! Soon, I came to realize that life had not been so good for him in the two years we’d been distant. About a month or two after we sent each other a couple of messages, yet another brick fell on him: cancer. He’s not much older than me, and he has kids. As I’m writing these lines, he does not know yet what’s to come and what stage his cancer is at.

i will be with you

Being on the Stand By

Instinctively, immediately, I offered my help. However, I didn’t insist. I thought it was not my role, I thought he probably had a lot of support from family and close friends and I didn’t want to force myself on him.

A couple days passed, and I sent him a message to see how he was. He was still on the stand by for his appointment. But more importantly, on the stand by for some support. His family and most of his close friends didn’t know how to react. It’s as if cancer was a taboo. Something not to be discussed, not to be assumed or faced or even battled. As if you could catch it like a cold and be stuck with it forever. So they acted as if nothing was going on. As if nothing had changed for him. Truth is, everything had changed for him. And he needed to talk about it.

This is when my heart broke into pieces. I couldn’t believe he didn’t have more support. I felt I had to do something. Because I realised he was a friend who I love and care for. That’s when I put myself on the stand by too. Because I felt that no one deserved to be left alone in these circumstances. I’ve decided to be part of his days. Not that I’ve done much yet, but I thought of asking news on a daily basis or send a “Have a good day”. Or just letting him know I was there if needed.

you'll never understand

Putting the Fear Aside

And that’s what I want to share. Having the opportunity to get closer to him also made me learn a lifetime lesson: what is the most hard to handle is not the cancer in itself, it’s the lack of support from the ones you love. When it comes to such an important event in someone’s life, you have to put the fear aside and just stand by! Be there to listen, to smile, to cheer up, to ask, to hug. Be there when it gets even harder. Because one day it might be you.

How will you feel if the ones you love look down when you come into the room? How will you feel if no one asks how it went when waiting for important news? How can you find the strenght to fight if no one tells you how important you are?

Don’t assume a person who suffers from cancer – or any important disease, depression included – knows. Don’t assume he knows you love him. Don’t assume he knows you’re there. Instead, act like you love him, act like you’re there. Make sure he knows.

Next time you meet with someone who suffers, look in the eyes and simply ask: “Hey, how is it going today?” and listen. Too simple? Maybe. But you have no idea the difference you can make. No idea how powerful this can be in destroying the taboo about cancer.


Willa Cather quote retrieved from Pinterest

Isaiah verse from retrieved from Pinterest

You’ll never understand until it happens to you from retrieved from Pinterest

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