Excuse my language….but cancer really sucks.
I almost, ALMOST, think that recovering from cancer is more difficult than the treatment. Almost. Watching a hairless child half dozing in the chemo chair as toxic chemicals are pumped into his body is the stuff of nightmares. However, child and parent get through it moment by moment, and friends are there to support the battle. Afterwards, however, there is a different sort of battle–a slow rebuilding of life–and it’s not easy.
Yesterday an article from a cancer page appeared on my Facebook Newsfeed with the title “Survivors of Teenage Cancer Struggle with Jobs, Emotions Later in Life.“ The article said that
Survivors of teenage cancer also faced higher rates of depression and anxiety, as well as issues with memory and task efficiency, compared to their siblings who did not have cancer…Teen cancer survivors may also struggle later in life because their treatment came at a time of such rapid social and emotional development, Prasad added. “Cancer treatment at this time interferes with development of relationships, academic achievement, participation in social activities and the development of autonomy from parents,” she said. Conklin said teenagers’ increased expectations for independence and autonomy from parents can make the already challenging process of treatment even more difficult.
JJ does struggle at times with some of these things. We give him the best support and advice we can, but there’s only so much we can do and most of the time I feel pretty helpless when he struggles. Yesterday was one of JJ’s down days, and he poured out his frustration and discouragement to me, and my heart broke, and I ended up crying for him, and I prayed for him almost all night because I couldn’t sleep with an aching heart. I pleaded, “God, he’s been through so much. You’ve really got to help him!”
JJ had to work today; EJ didn’t. As EJ and I went about our day–including a trip to the library–I prayed and deeply thought, and decided that although I can’t make friends for JJ, and I can’t decide for him what he ought to do in his life, I can shanghai him, dragging him out to have some fun. After the years of struggles that we’ve had, we all really need to have some fun. Fun is not always frivolous. Sometimes it’s an absolute necessity for mental health. As they say, “Laughter is the best medicine.”
Besides the fact that we’ve been busy settling into our new house, EJ and JJ don’t often have the same days off so it’s not easy to find a time when we can do fun stuff. But I thought that if we don’t start fitting in fun activities, we will never get around to doing them. For goodness’ sake, we live in an area where people from all over the country and world come for vacations. There are TONS of things to do. So I got on the Internet and searched for “Things To Do.” We have tons of lakes surrounding us so with EJ’s encouragement I ordered an inflatable boat from Amazon. It’s Coast Guard approved but not much money. It’s big enough that we can all enjoy it together, but it’s something JJ and I can fit in his car and handle even if EJ can’t join us. JJ was shocked when I told him that I had bought a boat from Amazon. “You bought a BOAT? Are you CRAZY???” he exclaimed. I laughed.
I also decided that soon we are going to schedule an evening cruise on a tall ship. I love tall ships, which are old sailing-type ships like pirates used to sail, and I have always wanted to go on one. The price is reasonable. I read that the crew lets passengers help put up the sails and, if possible, to take turns steering the ship. How cool is that? When I told JJ about our sailing plans, he said, “If we go on a tall ship, you better not start talking ‘Pirate’ or I’m going to jump overboard and swim to shore.” “Aye, matey!” I replied. He groaned. Then I said that I really need to find a pirate hat. “What era pirate hat are you going to get?” JJ asked. I said, “Uhm. I’m going to look like Jack Sparrow. I’m going to wear beads in my hair and put black make-up around my eyes.” “Jack Sparrow isn’t exactly a good role model,” JJ protested.
EJ and I discussed what we could do–today–when JJ got out of work. Some places we’d love to take him to were too far for an evening drive. We considered taking him to a cute theater, but we didn’t like the movie showing on its one screen. So we decided to shanghai JJ and take him out to eat in Storybrooke. I googled a restaurant with good reviews, and as soon as JJ was ready, we took off on the drive through the beautiful countryside to Storybrooke. We parked the car and walked to the restaurant…only to find that it had closed at 2 p.m. Who closes a restaurant at 2 p.m.??? We walked down the very cute street and considered various restaurants. A few other restaurants were also closed, one restaurant was very small and warm, a few hadn’t had great reviews, and another one was appealing but the meals were expensive–like $40 each. No can do.
So we got in the car and continued driving…and driving…and driving. We drove through miles and miles of orchards with trees drooping with red cherries. One cherry orchard was filled with trees so red with cherries that it looked like a forest of maple trees blazing with autumn color. EJ happened to lift his arm just as I snapped a picture of the orchard. Rats!
Neither JJ nor I had eaten much since breakfast so we stopped at a sort of tourist place that sold jellies and jams and petoskey stones, and other Michigan treats. It had a small cafe inside the store. The menu was posted on big boards hung on the wall. The prices were a bit expensive but not terribly so…and we were very hungry. We decided on what to eat and then learned that the store stops serving food at 3 p.m. Bummer. So we drove and drove some more, and finally came to a very cute city nestled on the coast. We tried to find a unique but not fancy restaurant, but there was a festival in the town and it was extremely crowded. We ended up going to the Pizza Hut at the edge of town.
On the drive home, we talked about cancer struggles–among other things. JJ said that he had fun tonight and even if he protested at first, he wanted me to keep shanghaing him and dragging him off on adventures. Yup. I can do that.