Saturday, November 8, 2014

Forgiving Doesn't Mean That the Pain Is Gone

"A strong woman is someone who is able to smile this morning like she wasn't crying last night." ... Harriet Morgan

For years I have been the type of woman who would always smile in the morning in spite of whatever circumstances I was facing the previous night.  I shared my tears primarily with my pillow (and a few close friends).  I learned to get up and try again, no matter what difficulty I was facing.  I eventually got the reputation of being a very, very strong woman.  

Personally, being a strong woman is like a double-edged sword:  it is both a blessing and a "curse."  It is much like the saying, "The squeaky wheel gets the oil."  Basically, the loudest of people, who appear to be weak, are the ones who get the attention.  Recently, this was the topic of discussion at a local cancer support group.   What happens when the "go to" person is in need?  Personally, that is one of the most frustrating need help and nobody is physically around to provide the support.  

Following my mastectomy (my third major cancer operation) I felt abandoned, not by God, but by friends, neighbors, some family and even people from my spiritual group.  I knew that God would guide me to full recovery, but there were many days (and weeks) when I physically needed assistance for even the basic tasks, i.e. brushing my teeth, boiling a cup of water for tea, changing the linen on my bed, brushing my hair or taking my chihuahua for a brief walk.  I would plead with people, and the response I received 99% of the time was, "You're a strong woman.  You'll get through this."  or "Stop that crying!  There's no need for tears."   I eventually found the help I needed.  For two years, until recently, I paid an old man to do things in and outside the house I was incapable of doing.  In an emergency, I also called him to take me to the doctors or to pick up a prescription.   I remember asking a neighbor for help picking up a prescription because I couldn't drive the two miles to the pharmacy.  (I had been been diagnosed with an extreme bacterial infection, and needed medication.)  She was busy.  In fact, I stopped asking her for help because she always was "busy".   Other people in close proximity turned their backs on me; everybody was always "busy".  

Instead of being bitter, I relied on my Faith.  I knew that somehow I would get over the "nightmare".  I would cry myself to sleep (and on occasion I still do) from both pain and frustration.  I had been there for so many people, yet there was nobody I could rely on during an emergency, with the exception of the old man.  My suggestion to the strong woman out there who are facing cancer is: YELL or SCREAM so that you roar like a lion in the jungle to ensure that people hear and listen.  My suggestion to individuals who know a woman who is faced with cancer:  help her, especially if she is a strong woman.  Even a gesture as simple as a phone call can make a huge difference in another person's life.  

When I was working in the corporate world, I let management and co-workers know what I needed when I was faced with operations 1 and 2.   I compiled a list, and all of the items on that list were met by my fellow employees.  My coworkers were my primary support system.  There wasn't a day during my medical leaves of 2000 and 2004 when I didn't hear from at least one of them.  Sadly, I was no longer working in the corporate world during my December 2011 mastectomy.  I cried out, and my own voice echoed back.  I screamed, and I could hear my own roars in the jungle of life.  One day I even knocked on somebody's door for help, and they didn't answer ... sad, because I knew they were home.  During that instant I knew what a leper felt like: a social outcast.   That evening I prayed for those who turned their backs on me, and of course, I did forgive.  However, "Forgiving doesn't mean that the pain is gone." ... Harriet Morgan

It is almost three years since my mastectomy, and I continue to need help on occasion.  Recently, I asked a neighbor for a very small favor.  Her reply was "no" because she'll be visiting a sick friend with cancer.  She said she also makes it a point to call her friend daily just to see how she is doing.  And I thought to myself, "And the days when I was so sick that I couldn't move, where was your call?"   I felt hurt, and last night I cried myself to sleep while my pillow washed away my tears.   

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