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This Is the Reality of What Cancer Families Go Through

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One bond that can truly not be broken: cancer families.

Our neighbors on the oncology floor become our family. You see these people every day. All day long. You soon get to know a lot about them in a short period of time. You can tell by a look on one of their faces how their day is going.

Maybe they just got the news they’d been dreading since they arrived. Or the news they have been longing for months.

As a long-term stay family on the floor, you become vulnerable. Sometimes you have to open up to strangers. Sometimes you have to be selfless. You set your struggles aside to be a shoulder for them to cry on or a hug to share their excitement with.

Sometimes it’s comforting to open up to these strangers, because these are people who really understand. They actually know what you’re going through. And they can say, “I get it” and they mean it.

Sometimes they have advice for you — maybe a tip or trick you haven’t thought of. As a parent to a medically fragile child, you are their biggest advocate. But sometimes you’re tired, sometimes you’re weak. But you will always have these families to help pick you up when you’re down and help remind you what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

Connections on the floor can happen fast. These people become the people you see every single day, all day long. It doesn’t matter where they are from or how far apart you live. Other cancer families become the people that are there for you most.

We have had our new friends come up to seventh floor to bring us treats and coffee while they’re downstairs for an appointment. We have had people go out of their way to come and visit us, even when they aren’t in the neighborhood. We have had people on the floor bring us home cooked meals, even though they are also struggling.

After a cancer, or any chronic medical diagnosis, they say that you find out who your friends and your family there. As cliché as it sounds, this couldn’t be more true.

Our cancer families have been there for many of us, more than most of our actual family and friends.

They check in with us regularly, come and visit whenever they can, and actually ask how we are doing.

They aren’t afraid to come see my child hooked up to machines.

They put aside their own plans or issues to come drop off a toy for my child, just to make him feel a little bit better.

It’s odd that the people we thought would be there for us the most are not. They are the ones that never come and see us, they never call or text us and ask how we are doing/if there is anything that we may need. These things make it easy to filter these people out of our life and get rid of these people that we don’t need.

Fortunately, along with a diagnosis, comes others out of the woodwork. People who you thought didn’t know you even existed are reaching out to you. Or maybe acquaintances or old friends that turn to you and support you.

It’s sad when you can count on one hand how many times some of your own family members have seen your sick child since he was diagnosed with cancer.

Most days I really don’t care and it just doesn’t bother me. But some days it does. Because I start to think it’s not fair to my sweet boy. Then, like a smack in the face I realize, we shouldn’t care. These people are missing out. Not us, not my baby.

If you’re too busy for us and only acknowledge us when it’s convenient for you, we won’t be here waiting. My child deserves more than that. He has family and friends who do put him first, who realize he’s the only thing that truly matters. We don’t have time for petty bullshit.

Because that’s what it is. It’s bullshit.

And now I will do everything in my power to keep him away from you. If you can’t be here for the hardest times of our lives, you will not be in our lives at all.

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Thinkstock photo by PobladuraFCG

Originally published: November 6, 2017
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