“So how are you doing?” the nurse asked.
“Alright. I don’t like being here,” I replied.
As the nurse was reaching for the alcohol she said, “Every patient I see says the same thing. How are things outside the hospital?”
“Well, nothing is really the same anymore,” I replied as I looked away from my arm.
“What things are contributing to your struggles?” the nurse asked.
“People expect me to be done with cancer and to ‘stay positive’ and I can’t do it.”
“That’s because it’s not them dealing with cancer. They don’t want to deal with it because of their fear. It interferes with their comfort zone,” the nurse said as she tried to locate a good vein in my arm.
“Some of my relationships have changed. The dynamics just don’t feel the same way anymore.”
“Maybe they can’t adjust as well as you can,” the nurse said, spotting what she thought was a good vein. “Why don’t you make new friends? They will never know who you were. They will only know who you are today. And even if they don’t like it, you won’t be as disappointed because you hardly know each other.”
I had to interrupt her to let her know the vein she thought was good, really wasn’t. Then she continued setting up my IV and proceeded speaking.
“Do you want to know what the issue is? We hold on to things too much. We all do it. But everything is temporary. I know you want everything the same way it used to be and I am sorry you haven’t been receiving much support post cancer but…”
I interrupted her again.
“I find that even I am having a hard time accepting who I am today, and, just like my friends are holding on to the old me, I am doing the same without realizing it.”
The nurse continued speaking.
“Think of elementary school or high school, for example. How many of those friends still speak to you? You also don’t speak to them. You built different friendships throughout your life and there was a reason for that. We all evolve in some way or another. Life circumstances happen and not everyone is capable of coping with changes or adjusting. Remember, cancer is not the only contributor to change. You had gone through many changes before cancer happened. You will continue to do so. Cancer just happens to be another transition in your life. One you had no control over. The good news is you still have control over building new relationships and creating a healthier environment for yourself.”
“Yea, I have been through many transitions in my life. I remember some of my relationships had to end mostly because we weren’t comparable anymore. We were on different pages. I guess I feel vulnerable because of my illness. I expect people to understand. I want them to adjust the same way I had to adjust,” I said.
The nurse finally found a good vein then said, “there’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable. Just try not to be too hard on yourself. Your coping skills are your own and there is nothing wrong with them. You are not alone. Every patient who sits on that chair you’re sitting on has complained about the same things you’re telling me. I am not sure there’s a way to fix how others react with your cancer situation without forcing yourself to pretend. Personally, I think that makes things more complicated for you. You can only do your best.”
The nurse finished setting up my IV and directed me to the next room where I waited to be called for the MRI.
“Thank you for caring.” I said.
As I walked away from the nurse, she grabbed my shoulder and got closer to my face as if she was telling me a secret. “I want you to remember this, which I had to learn the hard way: expectations are the cause of all headaches.” We both paused for a few seconds. I processed her words and continued on my way.