"I came here for you, but a lot of what is coming out is me... all that seems to do is compound this feeling of guilt." Annie, Valleys: Episode 3 -- "This Guilty Feeling" (watch the episode below!)
Introduction by Lisa Lamont
Talking about cancer can be difficult. And for many, the thought of sharing their actual feelings about cancer with those they love can feel insurmountable.
People with cancer and those who love and support them can fall into a trap of silence: holding back their feelings because of the mistaken belief that to share their true experience would be hurtful, perhaps insensitive, or maybe that the other person couldn't handle it.
And then there is guilt -- for bringing the stresses of cancer into the family. Or in the case of the support person, guilt for being healthy, experiencing success, or achieving milestones. This can be particularly significant for young adults with cancer who must put life on hold for treatment and recovery at a time when there are many life changes and opportunities.
The instinct to protect those we love is human nature. Intentions are good: seeking to shield others from sadness, guilt, worry. But the end result can be one of a heavy emotional burden and a profound sense of isolation despite being surrounded by people -- for both the person with cancer and their support people.
Talking about feelings such as fear, anger, guilt, and sadness gets a bad rap. Often it is assumed that by sharing these common emotional responses, people will feel worse, tears may be shed, deep feelings are triggered, and then what? How could that be helpful, people wonder?
In fact, we know that when people risk opening up and there is a receptive person willing to receive the other person's story, healing happens. The burden of shouldering the hard feelings is shared. Tension is reduced. Emotional bonds are strengthened. A sense of deep relief is felt.
In Valleys: Episode 3, Amy shares that she is learning a lot despite how hard things are and Annie is coming to a new understanding of her experience, that there is more than one way to live with the impact of being a close friend and caregiver to her dear friend Amy. She and Amy's husband John express that "this isn't about me" but they show us that it can't help but be about them all, because they love Amy. And we can't know each others true experience unless it is shared and witnessed.
Lisa Lamont is a Clinical Social Worker at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, AB and was on the Survive & Thrive Expeditions Grand Canyon trip that was filmed for Valleys: The Webseries.
Watch Episode 3 here: