Tough Questions

Ever since Anna got sick I've had my fair share of tough questions to answer. It seems like people were always asking something I didn't know how to answer. "Is she going to be ok?" Well, I hope so but only God knows that. "What caused this?" According to my google search it's a chromosome thing. I don't really care to know about that, though. I'm focusing on how we're going to beat it. "Have they tried X,Y,Z kind of treatment?" I'm not her doctor, I'm her sister so I don't really know but my family and I are confident in her doctors. And the one that's always the toughest... "How is she doing?" 

The answer, of course, has been different depending on the different stages of this process. When she was getting treated it was like Well she's going through chemo so she's feeling pretty shitty. When she was in the hospital same thing, she's obviously not doing so great if she's in the hospital. And now that things are serious and the doctors have said there is nothing else they can do? I am feeling more confused than ever about how to answer this question. I know that a lot of people genuinely care, but it's hard to pick out the people who really care and really want to know how she's doing from the polite people who in casual conversation say "oh, how's your sister doing?" and aren't expecting a serious, depressing answer.

I remember vividly one time not too long after Anna first got sick, I ran into someone who asked about Anna, told me she was praying, etc. It was really nice but then she asked the question: "How's she doing?" In order to not burst into tears every time someone brought it up, I would usually just answer with a generic "She's good" or "She's hanging in there", which is what I told this lady. I remember she looked at me super seriously and said "Is she? Is she really?" WTF? What do you want me to tell you? Well let's see, she had chemo last week and has been feeling pretty shitty ever since and oh yeah she threw up once or twice, she's also been battling a lot of pain and sleeping a lot. Basically, yeah, she feels awful. No one wants to hear that! Whether it's the truth or not, it's too much information for one person to take in when they are just being nice.

This current situation is very much the same. My family and I are faced with the realities of Anna's declining health on a daily basis. It is what our lives revolve around now. But that is our private battle that we are doing are best to deal with and sharing with family and close friends. It gets complicated when people I'm not super close too ask me how Anna is. The last most of these people heard is that the doctor's weren't sure if there was more they could do. That was at the beginning of May, when I was still in school. Things are worse now. A lot worse. But do I feel like sharing that with every person who tries to be nice? Not really.

I feel like this for many reasons. First of all, it's incredibly difficult to talk about. I don't want to talk about it or think about it but unfortunately it's something I have to try to deal with. Also, I just don't want to launch into a speech about how bad things are when people were just being polite. Not only that, but it is not really my business to tell. Sure, it affects me in a major way but if this were happening to me, I'm not really sure I would want all of Anna's acquaintances to know how badly I was doing.

I feel like it's a catch 20/20- Anna has influenced a lot of peoples lives and they want to know how she is doing. At the same time, what do I share and not share? Do I tell people that she has been hooked up to an oxygen machine because she feels short of breath lately? Tell them that she's spent the last few days sleeping all the time and when she's not sleeping she's in ungodly amounts of pain? Tell them that because she's on a lot of medicine she can't use her hands anymore and therefore can't even send a text message? Where do you draw the line?

What is happening? Sucks. There's no nice, pretty, polite way to say it. It effing sucks. But I'm dealing with it in my own way and I'm not losing hope. I am praying and doing my best to stay positive. And I'm just not sure that I'm ready to open up to the world about what's happening. Maybe someday, but ultimately I know it is my decision who to tell what and who not to say anything to. I just don't want to answer the question because the answer is so hard to face...

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Rebecca Louise. said...

I completely respect your decision and Anna's feelings in this. I would just like you to know that if you ever do want to talk about it fully we're all here to look and listen :)

erin. said...

Being able to post that alone shows enough bravery & courage. My heart aches for you & your family and my prayers are always with you. <3 from NY for Anna, you, and everyone that surrounds you during the wonderful days and the difficult days as well.

Audreya said...

First of all, I continue to pray for Anna and for you. I think you're handling the situation as best you can, which is to say that there is no right or wrong way to act, feel, respond to questions, etc.

My only real question answering tactic from when I've been asked medical / personal questions about others is just to give a brief but honest update and then end with something that lets them know you're done talking about it. "We've had a setback and she could use your prayers. I'll let her know you asked about her." or something like that. Most people will figure out from there that you don't want to give details. And the people who can't pick up that subtext and just going to be difficult to deal with no matter what. :-) I know I've said "Hang in there" a million times, but hang in there!

Jenny said...

When I read this post, I felt like I was reading something that I would have wrote. This happened to me countless times when my mom had cancer. I remember saying she's good, and this lady saying, really?? I just felt like shaking her! Just tell me you are thinking and praying for her, that's what I want to hear!
As always Patrice, I have kept your sister Anna in my thoughts and prayers as well as your family. Cancer sucks big time!!! Stay strong girl! If you ever need to talk, feel free to email me. (((hugs)))

The Frat Pack + Me said...

Dear Patrice,
I prayed for you and your sister. I am so sorry for what you two are enduring right now. I will continue to keep you + Anna in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

I came across your blog when I was looking up make a wish. My 16 year old twin sister survived leukemia and just had her make a wish last month to meet lady gaga. I also stumbled across Anna's facebook page because of all our mutual friends and discovered her website and all that has been going on with her. I KNOW exactly how it feels to deal with talking about this horrible disease and I want you to know that you are not alone. I have prayed for anna harder then I have prayed for anyone, other then my sister when she was sick. I do not know you or Anna but please know that your family is in my heart.

Jocelyn said...

I actually know exactly how you feel. My mom passed away from cancer on May 31st. Before that, I was always getting tons of questions, the same exact questions you talked about. Glad to know I'm not the only one that didn't know how to answer and if it wouldn't have been rude I would have just not answered people.

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