Sunday, 9 March 2014

The art of putting someone else before yourself

Dear world,

It's so hard. Learning to put someone else's needs in front of your own. From the earliest childhood we have to learn that we are not the only one in the world, who wants to get things done their way. We learn to share our belongings and to be nice to our fellow people. To do each other favours, even if it means doing something we don't particularly like to do.
Most of us probably don't learn what it really means to put someone else's needs in front of our own, before we have children. 'Cause it's hard to do. It's so easy to get mad and upset and spiteful when you feel the world is being unfair or someone isn't caring enough about your needs, or things just don't go the way you want them to.
For me, this cancer has certainly been an exercise in silencing the voices in my head, that scream for attention when things are hard.

Because I know, I KNOW, that things are 10 times harder for F. He is the one who gets to feel the side effects, who has all this happening to his body. He must deal with the fear of the future and his own fragility in a whole different way than I must.
And I don't want to be another burden on his mind, complaining about how hard the situation is for me. I want to be as big and as solid a support to him as I possibly can.

It's a balance, cause he also finds comfort and strength in still having the role of 'my boyfriend' and in being my rock when my work is hard etc. It helps him to feel normal, helps him to feel like I still need him, and don't just stay with him out of pity. Makes him feel like he is still able to do something to help.
So I tell him when I am tired and upset with my studies, or if something happened with a friend. And I tell him that I miss him here in Oxford, and that I am sad he is not here with me.
But if I really showed him how much his cancer and treatments affect me, I will throw off the balance. I will add a lot to his worries. I will put my own needs in front of his, to an extent that is just not okay, the situation taken into account.

So I try to keep it in, to swallow my sadness and my disappointment. I don't always succeed. It's hard when he's there in person. My tears run like waterfalls at the smallest emotions these days, and betray me. It's easier when I'm on the phone with him.

But it's hard on me to do so. Put someone else in front of myself to this extent. It's not somethings I'm used to. And a relationship is supposed to be equal: you are there for each other equally much, share the same roles, support each other. The cancer twists this around. Suddenly there is one big thing in our relationship that just tilts everything to the side.

Take for example the situation that happened a couple of days ago. F had been talking for weeks about the possibility of him coming to visit me here in Oxford, just for a day or two. His newest treatment is much milder for his immune system, so he is not as much at risk of catching infections as he was with the previous treatments. So his doctors had said that he would be allowed to go visit me, and F said he wanted to go sooner than later, in case they changed his treatments again.

You have to understand how much this would mean to me. I spend a whole year looking forward to living next to F this year. We made plans of all the things we were going to do together, I was so excited by the prospect!
And now I live here on my own, wake up every day in my double bed, reminded that he's not lying there next to me. I cook on my own, while the other couples in my corridor sit together and eat, fingers entwined. Every day, I walk past the door to the room that was supposed to belong to F. I see that door that has become haunted to me. And I just miss him. He has not been here once. He has not seen the room I am living in, how I decorated it, or put up the pictures of me and him. I have mostly accepted that this is just the way things are. But if he could come visit me, just for one day, then we could cook together in the kitchen like the others and we could sit with out fingers entwined, and we could wake up in my bed together for once, and walk by the ghost door hand in hand. It would not make up for a whole year apart, but it would mean so so much to me.

So when the doctors said that F could visit, I was thrilled. And so was he! Up until a couple of day before he was supposed to come visit.
We had never made the plans completely final, since they depended on his and my health at the time. But we planned the visit, and talked so much about what should happen.
And then a few days before, he told me he couldn't come after all. He was afraid that he might catch an infection on the public transportation, and his parents couldn't drive him (none of us have a licence). Even though he was at lower risk of catching an infection with this treatment, he didn't want to take that chance, since we don't know whether the treatment is working, and he wanted to do everything he could to make sure it is working and that he can get the chemos at the right times.

So he didn't come visit after all.

When he told me those news, I just got so disappointed. It was the one thing I had been looking the most forward to in those days, and I just felt like such a big thing was taken away from me. I got so frustrated that once again I had to set aside my own expectations and excitement and wishes for the sake of him not catching a cold. And please don't get me wrong: Of COURSE I want more than anything for him to get healthy. I would give anything in this world to know that his treatments are working, I would do anything I could, if it raised his chances by the tiniest bit. That is why I told him, that I was absolutely okay with this, and that I would obviously miss him, but his health came before anything else. And I meant it when I said it, and I have meant it every second since then. I would only want him to visit if his doctors said that it was a good idea, and he really wanted to himself.

But I just couldn't help feeling overwhelmed with disappointment. I really needed to see him, needed him here to comfort me and be there for me, and those needs just had to become a second priority. I wish I could say that I had no problem setting aside my own wishes for him, but that's not the case. I find it so hard to let go of the self-pity when the world is a bit unfair to me.
I don't want to tell him how upset I was that he didn't come, cause I didn't want him to feel like he was letting me down. None of this is his fault! It is the damn cancer's fault. So I don't want him to feel like I am blaming him.
But I struggled to bite my tongue and relax my voice as I told him that I was absolutely okay with him not visiting, that I was sad it wouldn't be a possibility now, that I would miss him, but that his health was much more important.

I guess it's just something you have to lean slowly. You can't become a master of your own mind, controlling your own emotions and learning to be completely selfless, overnight.
Hopefully, being aware of it and trying to do a bit better every time is the first step.


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