Monday, October 15, 2007

An Ocean Away

I have a friend who was just recently diagnosed with Hodgkin's, just like what I had. We were talking and she was venting as I was reminiscing and we ended up talking about our friends and how they reacted to our illness.

Both myself and my friend are into chessed and we totally appreciate those people who want to be there for others and do all they can to help out. The problem is that most people don't know how to help out.

The desire is there, but the methods are completely wrong.

To go into what people would need to do to shape up is pretty much a repeat of what I've been posting my entire blog-

-Don't pretend you're best friends with the person if you didn't know her name before last week

-Don't come over uninvited or push offers on the people you never had anything to do with before

-Don't call and leave a zillion messages for the choleh- chances are she heard the first one and will either call you back when she feels like it or never...

-Don't become best friends with their sisters just to say that you have a CLOSE relationship to the family...

There are so many Don'ts running through my head right now but the more I write the more ridiculous they all sound. But the problem is that these Don'ts happen all the time.

Why is it that my friend is so glad that her friends are all married and live in Lakewood or Israel or really far away, and that they can't come over and bug her even if they wanted to?

My friend knows that these girls who call 100 times a night only want to do chessed, but yet, the way they go about it is enough to make her glad that some of them are an ocean away.

We both feel that it's so sad.

There are people out there who really do want to do good- they just don't know how.

My friend was saying that she would love to tell them how, but some people just don't want to listen. I think that's worse than anything.

Being mevaker choleh is to do what's good for the patient. If she's trying to tell you what's good for her, but you decide you know better, what good is that?

I hated to tell her that she'd probably come out of this illness thinking very differently about some people she'd never had an opinion about before. Instead of leaving well enough alone, I find that some people insist on putting themselves out there and making things so annoying and bothersome for the patient.

A simple card would say so much without all the bother.

I'm not trying to be negative. Not at all. I have friends and students who are always telling me that they want to volunteer for chessed programs and things, and I think that is so beautiful. I just wish more people would know what it's like from the other point of view, from the side receiving the chessed.

I have to commend the people I've met who really took the time to understand and listen to what the patent's needs really were, they were able to read between the lines and weren't the girls that my mother had to lie to and say that I was sleeping, or on the other line, or overnight in the hospital, or that I was in Florida for the month... in order for them to stop calling.

It's really hard for one to know the rules of the game and where to toe the line, but I think that with a little more sensitivity and a little less excitement to do what THEY feel is the RIGHT thing, we'd all be much better off.

And for the girl that I was supposed to "break up the night with" -This post is for you!


Anonymous said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH for this post! As a recent cancer patient myself I cannot begin to tell you how much your words really ring true! Yes, we really do appreciate everyone who tries to partake and help us through our ordeals. Yet, there is a lot of insincerity involved. You want to get into Camp Simcha? Become my best friend! You could even discuss me on your interview! Now that's "pull!" I've gotten more than one phonecall from girls applying to Simcha asking me details about myself to write in the application essay! You might think we're blowing things out of proportion, but it happens all the time, and we can sense it. No one turned us into little nebbachs who can't chap things suddenly! If anything, our "antennae" or even more alert and reactive to fakers. And even if the person isn't faking, as it's hard to imagine that there are so many facade-people out there, the least one can do is learn tact. It sounds obvious, but just put yourself into our shoes!

chchick said...

This reminds me of a call I got from someone who I consider a friend. She was in a Masters program for speech therapy and needed some letters of recommendation, not sure exactly for what. She wanted to know if I could write a letter for her stating how much help she was to me in my time of need, and how much her intervention helped to ease the pain and struggle...Fuhgeddaboutit!!!!!!!!!!
What is she kidding????? a. I spoke to her on the phone only one time during the whole ordeal. b. I didn't need her help, I didn't ask for it, she didn't offer it, it was just a conversation to touch base after a couple of months of no communication. c. are sick people meant to be guinea pigs for people to use at their convenience? Have we no feelings? Anyway, I told her that I don't particularly like to write and besides I have no time. I hope she understood that I felt that her suggestion was a total violation of my feelings, privacy...

I myself have two neighbors who are currently dealing with grown children suffering from difficult cancers and I am at a loss of what to say to them. I feel that to say anything to them is a breach of their privacy. I find it unbelievable that having gone through the same experience that I am still helpless in the face of it. I think that the best one can do is to pick up a phone and offer physical, hands on help, with food, babysitting, shopping, errands or whatever. If they need it they will accept the offer and you will have done a real chessed. I know that a couple of times I accepted offers of help when I thought I could juggle on my own, because I saw that it made the person offering happy to see that they were of some use to me. In general I tried to manage on my own, as who wants to be seen as an object of pity and need?

halfshared said...

Wow. Thank you for helping all of us that have not gone through cancer. It is very hard to know what to do and what not to do. You are the ones that know it best so I really appreciate that you took the time to explain your side of the story. My motto is "when in doubt, leave out". May you be zoche to good health and happiness until 120!

Anonymous said...

i was disappointed in this post, because other than "send a card", although you told me what NOT to do, you didn't really say what I SHOULD do. It sounds like even calling to ask "what can I do?" is wrong. So... please enlighten those of us who mean well... what CAN we do? I realize that each person deals with their illness differently and what is right for one person according to their perception might be wrong for another. But surely there are some positive actions besides sending a card that can apply to a larger audience of people going through a serious illness.

J.A.P. said...

Anonymous. I wrote that I didn't want to go into what people SHOULD do because it would be a repeat of the entire blog.

Its also hard to say what someone should do because each patient has individual needs.

I would say that the DON'Ts are the same no matter who the patient is, but with each situation you need to observe and listen and understand and maybe talk to close family members who can advise you on the best action to take.

Bas~Melech said...

1st anon and chchick, I can hardly believe people actually did that! They didn't even bother trying to be subtle about it? I mean, I don't consider myself the most sensitive, tactful person, but this is beyond chutzpah... I wonder what they were thinking. I really wonder.

JAP -- I'm with anon2. Even after reading your whole blog, I'm left with a pretty clear sense of what not to do, but little advice on how to actually express our genuine caring. Basically, the impression I got is that if you were never really tight with the patient, stay far away. I understand that intrusive outsiders are a pain in the neck, but is there truly nothing that a concerned acquaintance, neighbor, or casual friend can do? Are you saying that the best reaction is to just stay out of the picture entirely?

J.A.P. said...

Okay Bas Melech and anon 2, I hate doing this because I'll have a million sick patients disagreeing with me, but I'll tell you what my idea of the "right" chessed was in my situation:

Next Post. When JB's top two teeth make their full appearance... they started poking out this morning!

As soon as he lets me sleep thru one night we'll post...:P

Anonymous said...

You wrote: "I just wish more people would know what it's like from the other point of view, from the side receiving the chessed."

I know you didn't mean that the way I interpreted it but how about if you change that to "I just wish more people would try to understand what it's like...." Unfortunately, too many people know what it's like to be on the receiving end and I wish that nobody would have to know!

itsagift said...

Anon, DON'T TAKE HER WORDS SO SERIOUSLY! All of us are recipients of chessed in one form or another! A person does not have to be sick with cancer to understand...Did anyone ever come to be mevaker choleh you the WRONG WAY?! Did anyone ever call/come visit when you weren't up to it?! It could be you were just sick with a bad cold or a virus and you are NOT in the mood of company or phone calls...It doesn't take much to TRY to understand things from the point of view of a sick person, just put yourself in the situation for a minute! Chas v'shalom, I'm not hoping for you or anyone to be sick, I'm just saying that we have all been sick in one way or another with (hopefully) the least severe of sicknesses and we should try to be as understanding as possible to other people who are sick (by remembering the last time we were sick) and be extra careful and sensitive to what they need!

Miss Teacher said...

Please say tehillim for Yosef Dovid ben Sima - A friend's 16 year old brother who was just diagnosed with Lymphoma.

Pickle said...

Bas Melech. i understand that you want to do something. i commend you for your honesty,though. yes i commend and appreciate it- that you realize- excuse the wording "merely" an acquaintance. you are honest with your relationship. and so maybe all you can do at this time is just to send a card. or better yet, have your friend in mind in your tefillos.( that's all that anyone can do really...) but honestly being that i'm in the situation... people who never said "boo" to me are now calling me, some of them are oblivious to that fact that they never said a word to me before i got sick. yes, i understand the concern but the honesty and sincerity mean more to me at this point that you realize that you are an (sorry for the rubbing in-)acquaintance. yes so if you are the minority that is honest- then maybe yes keep your distance,have your friend in mind or the most...send the card! ;)

itsagift said...

Just want 2 wish you a HUGE refuah shelaima!! My heart goes out for you and I hope you have the strength to go through it all! May Hashem be with you always and may you always feel CLOSE to him! If you want to give out your tehillim name, I will definitely daven for you and have you in mind...because after all, what more can I do to show I care?!