As the weekend ends, like always, I find myself counting my blessings. Then it’s Monday, the start of a week that’ll be made or broken by nothing more than my own attitude. This was Compassion Therapy.
Over the past few days, I got to spend time with a cancer patient who pulled in the reigns a bit on my fast-paced reality. Without knowing it she gave me pause to reflect on, and appreciate, the simple blessings I lose sight of daily…until it comes time to count them again. When you’re healthy, you never think of being unhealthy; you just are. But if you manage to recover from a serious illness, no matter what it’s difficult to ever think of yourself as completely healthy again. Sometimes it’s hard to feel blessed when what you’re really feeling is lucky.
When I think about the complexity of cancer in general, I often question why it has to exist at all. It just doesn’t seem fair. And cancer doesn’t know the meaning of the word discrimination. Male, female, young, old and every race, color and creed are diagnosed daily. It just doesn’t care. And it has no capacity to understand the havoc it wreaks; especially on the young.
I was somewhat unsettled during my weekend visit with this strong, wonderful young woman. Applying her make-up, holding her hand, or just listening to her seemed like too simple an effort to make toward someone facing the challenges of treatments I know only too well. I remember the pain of mine like yesterday, but I almost feel guilty because I’m now well enough to live my life. I’m frustrated at wanting to do more for her, even though I know from experience that there really isn’t much more I can do. A sad fact of cancer is that, while love and support are both needed and welcome respites, there’s still a part of the journey you have to go through alone…the Journey of the Mind. And this beautiful soul does not have the same control of her life at twenty-one that millions of others at her young age do. And that some take for granted.
No matter how much I wish I could simply waive away a cancer patient’s fear, it’s obviously not possible. The best I, or anyone else, can offer is a temporary return to normalcy. And for whatever that’s worth, it’s nice to escape the pain and suffering in those moments and feel like a person again.
When I spend time with a patient, I bring a treasure chest of items intended to help calm the fears of a person who I know is in a crisis-mode. Among them are make-up, wigs, accessories and skincare. These convenient tools of my trade are easy for me to work with; it’s the burns, sickness, loss of appetite and fatigue caused by cancer treatments that I can do nothing about. These are the side effects no amount of cosmetics can conceal. And as much as I’d love to, there’s not a single thing I can do about them. Which is why sometimes while helping others, I’m still left feeling helpless.
This weekend the simple task of teaching a patient to draw on eyebrows using a feather technique, followed by how to apply eye-strip lashes, was the highlight of our time together. She felt like a million bucks, and the thanks for that belongs to Pretty Pale.
I am proud to be Pretty Pale.
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- A Guide to Skin Cancer and Melanoma - November 6, 2017
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- Students: Back to School Skin Protection - September 20, 2017
- An Explosion of Skin Cancer Diagnosis in the 21st Century - July 24, 2017
- Familial Malignant Melanoma: Family Tragedies - June 12, 2017
- Melanoma Monday – May 1, 2017 and every Monday Thereafter… - May 1, 2017