“But you look great!”
A nice compliment to Kim, I suppose, even considering the tone of surprise. She’s gone through 10 surgeries and 3 courses of radiation, and she’s taking a variety of pills, shots and infusions. She feels shitty much of the time. But she looks great.
Kim gets a variation of this when talking on the phone: “But you sound great!”
“How am I supposed to sound?”
I suppose that people have an idea in mind about how people are supposed to sound when being treated for stage 4 cancer, and Kim’s voice and appearance don’t fit that image. If you feel shitty, you should look and sound shitty. Otherwise, people are confused. This doesn’t happen so often when Kim is using her walker while wearing her back brace, but it still happens.
One of my tasks as Kim’s advocate is to look for signs of her pain and fatigue and announce to our guests, “OK, it’s nap time – thanks for stopping by.” She has taken maybe a dozen naps in the 27 years that we’ve been married, but now she takes one or two a day while the healing takes place. The fact that most people our age take daily naps doesn’t matter. Kim does not want to be a napper – there’s too much that needs to be done! She needs encouragement to nap, and I provide it – just another song in my nursing repertoire.
It’s Kim’s fault that people are confused. Self-pity is simply not part of her vocabulary – or if it is, she keeps it private. She is stoic. We both grew up in families and times where seeking sympathy was frowned upon. I still hear my father’s voice: “You’re crying? Well, I’ll give you something to cry about . . ..” That usually dried up my tears. Showing pain was a sign of weak character.
I suppose I could train Kim to look and sound as pained, fatigued, and sometimes discouraged as she occasionally feels: more moaning, grimaces, sudden shouts of pain. She’s working, with suggestions from Genne’, on strengthening her back and straightening her posture, but perhaps she should also practice a defeated slumped-over look, at least around company.
But no, because what Kim enjoys most is the joyful connection with friends and family – in person, or by phone, text, email or card. When she is connected that way, she rises to the occasion, summoning energy and cheer from her deep but finite reserves, and she looks and sounds great. It’s contagious. She brings out the best in all of us.
P.S. Kim says people are probably tired reading about her – I should write about something else. I say that it’s my blog and I’ll write whatever the fuck I want.