Every Little Thing: A Message for the New Year

By Linda Lee, Cancer Center Administrator

The holiday season is behind us and we are now “in” the New Year! Some mark the entry into a new year in all kinds of ways, some celebratory, others mark the occasion with a lot of thought and reflection. Some do both. I did.

I found myself thinking a lot about a rare opportunity I had been given in 2017. In November, I, along with several of our team leaders from our Cancer Center, were honored to spend some time listening to one of our cancer patients who is currently undergoing treatment. We also listened to a family member of a patient who passed away as a result of cancer. These two beautiful people came to us because we invited them. We wanted to learn more about their experience and they wanted to share.

The voices of these two individuals have continued to resonate in my daily thoughts. I was touched so deeply. Their experiences have informed my work and those of my colleagues.

So, it seems only natural to share some of what they taught us, both instructional and inspirational (and I paraphrase). From the patient: “Please remember we are not the same. We learn in different ways, and some of us can only accept scary information in small doses.” “Please don’t judge me if I need to hear things more than once….I am trying my best to understand.” “I have decided this cancer is just an interruption in my life. An inconvenient interruption, and that is all it is. My life is moving on.” “This is so hard on my daddy. Even though I am grown, it is hard for him to see his ‘little girl’ with absolutely no hair.” “This has been so hard on my mamma. I know she cries but she never does in front of me.”

I listened to every little thing she said.

And, from the family member of a patient who died from cancer: “You guys saw my mom when she was being treated for cancer. I was with her when she was diagnosed, treated, I was with her when she died, and now I have to try to find a way to live without her.” “Please don’t forget us, the family members.” “I felt so alone. The rest of the world was whizzing by, and my life was consumed with caring for my mom. Even while shopping, I could not understand how everybody else could feel and act so free and normal.” “Please notice us. We are everywhere, even in the grocery store.”

I listened to every little thing she said.

Cancer is an interruption. It is never fun. So many people survive. Some do succumb to their disease. There are family members. We must mention them all. Tend to them all. Maybe you will see yourself in some of their words. Perhaps you will be inspired, like we were, to notice more, respond more and act from the heart.

Listen to every little thing. Wishing you kindness, intentional thoughtfulness and healing in 2018.