Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Strength in Numbers

For one Wednesday evening, for last two months, I have done the very thing that I swore up, down, back, forth and sideways I would never do.

I am going to a Colon Cancer Support Group.

2 and a half years ago, almost immediately after I had finished my radiation at "The Agency", I got a phone call from one of the facility's social workers. He told me that they were going to try starting up a group, and would I be interested in coming? Knee jerk reaction? Thank you very much, but Noooooo.

Emphatically no.

Hell. To. The. Big N. Big O.

Every fibre of my being balked; I had no desire whatsoever to sit in on one of these sessions. To me, the very notion of a support group conjured up images of a bunch of whiners, moaning about how sick they felt and how depressed they were and wah wah wah. This was not to even remotely be considered as part of the complicated and necessary eleventy-five-point positivity plan I had created for myself.

My decision - of sorts - to give in? Well, it just kinda happened. Through a mutual friend, I met a lovely lady who was in the final stage of treatment and was looking for someone to share experiences with. A buddy, as it were. She mentioned during one of our early conversations that she had heard about a support group that was being held at our city's Cancer Agency, and she was intrigued as to what it was all about.

Typical me - with the words spilling out of my mouth faster than I could reel them back in - blurted, "Would you like me to go to the first one with you?".

Shit. There would be no backsies on this offer.

But then, the strangest thing happened. I decided to sit with my resistance and my discomfort. I decided to hike up the big girl panties and figure out why this was pushing my buttons. While I sat there, I realized that maybe - just maybe - I hadn't ever really processed all of the feelings that I had just kind of squashed to the musty corner of my mental closet.

While on the first few layers I was all Mary Sunshine and "Let's just Git'R'Done" and lovingly assuring family and friends "I am going to be Just Fine", I think that the terrified inner monologue I was having wa-a-a-y deep down was just simply ignored. Like a whining child.

So even though - partially buried - the words remained in their endless constant loop, eroding my optimism a little more with each cycle, I chose not to listen. Or I deluded myself into thinking I made that choice.

As I sat there, listening to everyone's very real and painfully honest stories, I had this weird analogy come to mind. You know the dingy old Army and Air Force Legions, where your grandpas and uncles and maybe dads hoisted a few with their fellow compatriots?

It finally occurred to me why these places exist.

These people get each other. There is no need for long-winded conversation. There is no reason within that haven to judge, to seek approval, to give solace. These are men and women who have all been, at one time or another, in the same hellacious place.

There is a shorthand amongst them - in the way their brow turns, in the quiver of their chin when they speak,in the hint of a quaver of their voice. in the darkness behind their eyes.

They get each other.

Just like my fellow support group members get each other.

Listen to me, would ya? My fellow group members.

Yup. We get each other.

Pure and simple, and simply pure.


formerly fun said...

This is good, and good for you for trying to gigure out why you felt resistent to it. I saw when my grandfather had cancer how much he didn't say for our benefit. So maybe not only do they get you but it's not your job to put on a brave face for any of themand that has got to be a load off.

RiverPoet said...

I'm a big fan of support groups. Maybe in the beginning I wasn't, for the same reasons as you, but many groups have found their stride and their purpose. I think it's fantastic you have a place to put those feelings, because bottled up? They are damaging. Peace - D

Mental P Mama said...

Smart move. I resisted joining one for years, and when I finally decided to give it a go, I was overwhelmed by the sense of comfort I felt just by knowing that I wasn't alone and my feelings were real. Smart move;)

baronessvonb said...

Countess FF: While I felt it essential to be strong for family and friends, you are quite right - the lack of censorship is pretty freeing.

Countess D: It's interesting what you said about a group "finding its purpose and stride" - this was one of the reasons I hesitated as well - it was a brand new group with what I thought was a less than effervescent leader.

The bottling? Unfortunately part of my m.o., but I'm trying not to let this happen. Not so easy.

Countess MPM: I guess, as they say, resistance really IS futile.
Damn these people for knowing so much. I hate being stupid.

♥~♥ Tracey ♥~♥ said...

Hooray for support groups! I think I would have had the same reaction at first. No support groups! But, if I am ever in a situation that warrants one, I may now give it a try.

Blog Antagonist said...

I really loathe group dynamics myself. I'm really not into public sharing. I think the reason any kind of group thing skeeves me out is because I don't like being prodded to talk about myself. It's not something I'm comfortable with.

If there was a support group that advocated just listening...that would be my group. But then...there'd be nothing to listen to, right?

I'm not very good at revisiting something once I've set my mind against it. I need to do more pulling up of the big girl panties, I think. So good for you! Sincerely.

Sandi said...

I had the exact same misgivings about joining a bereavement support group. It turned out to be the best thing I could have done.

Patty Cakes said...

I think people resist as then it confirms...and what you went through needs to be recognized not by us who can't imagine and have no clue but by those who have checked that library book and are more than qualified to discuss it. Everyone has a different perspective and sometimes it is good to see how other people see it. I know many people will be inspired by you......I know I am

baronessvonb said...

Countess Tracey: I truly wish that you never have to find yourself in any situation which requires one.

Countess BA: Ya know, those granny panties are more comfortable than you might think! And, as an only child and social pariah, I am not too crazy about joining in, either.
But occasionally, there is a time and a place that works.

Countess Sandi: Who knew, right?

Countess of YY: As always, you are right. As for the inspiring thing, you're making me blush. Stop it.

stacy said...

beautiful post.

your honesty is powerful.

Baroness von Bloggenschtern said...

Countess Stacy: Thank you for that. As of late, I am learning many things about revelation - honesty, authenticity. I learn a great deal from what I read. You, my dear, are a constant source of inspiration.

Thank you (and Kevyn) for that, too.

Blog Designed by Rita of CoffeeShop