I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon. Even my husband is doing it. For some reason, people seem to feel self-conscious about discussing any problem, especially any physical ailment, in front of me. Like it’s bad manners or disrespectful or something. I notice them catch themselves and either change the subject or say something I’ve heard a lot recently, something my husband even said to me tonight, referring to a stomachache he had: “Not that it’s much of anything compared to what you go through.”
I’m not sure why people think they need to do this. Do they think I’m going to be offended if they complain of a headache? Do they get embarrassed realizing “Oh, here I am talking about my sinuses and she has cancer. I must sound like a jerk.” Do they think it makes me feel like they don’t care about what I’m going through? (FYI, it doesn’t.)
What I think is this- whatever you are dealing with, be it physical pain, sickness, emotional stress, – everyone has stuff. Whatever it is, it’s real to you, and it’s the only thing that is real to you. Everyone else’s pain or problems are theoretical. You may feel very badly for me, and you may wish that I didn’t have pain or have to struggle, but you don’t feel my pain. You can compare yourself to me, or to someone else who you think has a worse situation, and it may help your attitude, but it doesn’t make your pain stop or feel less. Talking to other patients who are going through much more difficult battles with cancer is the same for me. It can help my attitude, but it doesn’t change my pain. It’s almost like the old cliche of the parent telling the child who doesn’t like his vegetables to think of the starving children. It may be a good perspective but it doesn’t make the vegetables taste any different.
Hearing about what is happening in other people’s lives is important for me as well, to remember that my immediate situation is not the center of the known universe. It can easily become that. Life starts to rotate around chemo, doctor visits, tests, exhaustion, rest, what I can and can’t do, and all things cancer. It permeates my life. It’s a good reminder for me to stay involved in the world outside my own diagnosis. My needs are no more valid than yours. My pain is no more real than yours.
My prayers are no more heard than yours. My life is no more precious to God than yours. I am loved and so are you.
So please, talk to me about what is happening with you – the good, the bad and the ugly – and don’t stop to say “But it doesn’t compare with what you’re going through.” Of course it does. It’s your life.
Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God’s Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought. Philippians 2: 1-4