Monday, November 26, 2012

Do You Ever Feel That Life's Unfair?

Eight years ago, my very close friend was diagnosed with stage IIIC breast cancer at the age of 39. Her 3 daughters were all under the age of 7 at the time. She went to a support group for breast cancer survivors. Expecting unqualified support and upbeat messages at the first meeting, she was very surprised by what the facilitator had to say. Her message that day, and I paraphrase, was this:-

Just because you have breast cancer, this does not protect you from anything else life has to throw at you.

It does not mean you have had your fair share of strife and you are off the hook for more troubles and woes. Breast cancer does not give you a free pass.

Wow - I was pretty shocked when my friend told me this and horrified and outraged that she, in this vulnerable state was being faced with these realities.

Where were the kid gloves?
Where was the softly, softly approach?
Where were the kind, gentle reassurances I thought she needed?

But now I am glad, and I know she is too, that this was a message delivered to her early in her treatment. Because since then,  life has thrown my friend a curve ball of massive proportions with way more than stage IIIC breast cancer.

It threw cancer at her mother and then her father.
It threw her the loss of her father 
And now it has thrown her the break up of her marriage.
And she is surviving and thriving through each of these major life hurdles.

Yes. One challenge would have been enough.

I agree.

But life is not fair. The tough stuff is not dealt out equally.

As Benjy (my eldest son) and I sat in the orthopedic surgeon's office last week and he told Benjy that he needed shoulder surgery very soon. Benjy and I burst into hysterics.

 The Doc looked at us rather strangely as we explained between hiccuping laughter that there had not been a surgery in our house since my husband had brain surgery(for trigeminal neuralgia) just a year ago. That it was only 3 years since Benjy had, had 2 potentially life saving heart surgeries and a severe second degree burn on his foot.

We joked that at least a shoulder was not a major organ. We discussed the silver linings....that the incision would be small and he could have surgery in winter break. Whooppee! Wasn't he lucky? Wasn't it great that Benjy wouldn't have to miss college and that there was a clear solution for his shoulder that kept popping out of its joint... .......?

And then we walked out of the doctor's office having scheduled Benjy's surgery for January 3rd. He has a 5 week recuperation followed by intensive physical therapy.

And we shook our heads in disbelief.

We know it could be worse. We've been there, done that. Looking at shoulder surgery in isolation, it's not so bad. It's just his right shoulder after all( and Benjy's left handed-another silver lining). A ligament that needs attaching back to its bone.

But  noone lives in a series of isolated, separate incidences. Life piles one thing on top of another.

And it is the relentlessness of that pile that sometimes seems too much to bear and unfair.

As I wage war with the insurance company (again) and spend time on the phone with the hospital and get all the forms  and pre op checks in order (again), I realize that I am all too familiar with this. That although my expertise at managing surgeries is useful, it is not how I thought or would have chosen to spend the majority of the last four years. 

It is also not how I want Benjy to spend his whole winter break. He is involved in so many activities at college, he  hardly has time to sleep, never mind recuperate from a surgery. He has also spent more than enough time with docs and hospitals for himself and his Dad.

So, right now we are allowing ourselves to rail against the fact that we are dealing with yet another surgery and recovery. We are allowing  ourselves to wallow a little, feel that life is unfair, that some people seem to sail through while we deal with yet another setback.

And when it comes to the surgery we will remind ourselves of the silver linings (see above) and that we are still not immune to whatever life throws at us next.

And, as ever, we will get up again, have a cup of tea and come out smiling in the end.

I'd love to hear your story and how you cope with the 'unfairness' of life. Please leave me a comment below or send me an email 


P.S. Please send chocolate and humor a.s.a.p.

P.P.S.One more silver lining -Thanks Benj for providing me with a good story for this post. Much appreciated. Love Mom x :-))

You may also find the following post interesting
Pondering On The Porch

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  1. Wishing you all the best for January 3rd - even though I'm sure we will be reading and commenting each other before then. About your friend whose marriage is breaking up - please send her all my love and best wishes. I am so sorry.

    1. Thanks Rachel. Yes I know we will be in touch before then. I'll pass on your love and message.

  2. HI Gilly
    I couldnt agree more! Life is indeed unfair sometimes and when it hits the curve ball as you stated it hits bulls -eye and one after another. I grew up with my dearest grannies. My Grandfather suffered from 'stroke' for more than 10 years while my Grandma was completely fine.. everyth was fairly smooth until my Grandpa had to be hospitalized for some organ complications, and my Grandma was with him at the hosp.. then she just collapsed in the hosp beside my Grandpa's bed, she died that moment, and 3 days after the funeral my Grandpa passed away too. it was soo heartbreaking. but then we just have to always get back to our feet, bear the wound and try to heal.

    You are right to always look at the silver lining.! My prayer goes out to your family ;-) cheers! and smile after all! ;-)

    1. MariaAna -That must have been such a tough time for you and your family. Losing two loved ones so close together must have been devastating. It is amazing how it is in our nature to bounce back ,even from the toughest times and thank goodness we do. Sometimes i think it is only when you look back at what you have been through that you wonder how you got through it.
      Thanks for commenting.


  3. Hi gilly. I read your post sitting at jonah's hospital bed. He is in hospital and on a drip suffering from a chest infection - and all on his 12th birthday... A miserable day for him but hopefully just a short illness that will intrude just briefly on his usual busy life. It's so true isn't it - that misfortune is not handed in equal sizes, at decent intervals and shared out fairly amongst people. And knowing that is important. It doesn't mean that you have to have a saintly acceptance of lifes hardships (I always allow myself a "wallow" time before I get on with things) but it is an acceptance of sorts: you can't control what life throws at you but for me it means putting my energy into coping rather than questioning why. All the best for benjy and hugs of strength and resilience to you all Vicky xxx

    1. Hi Vicky -So sorry to hear Jonah is in hospital on his birthday! I wish him a speedy recovery and Happy Birthday!
      Yes I agree, you do need to put all your energy into coping and asking why does not really help. I am often grateful that there is a way each time to solve the medical problems that were going to happen anyway and thankful that they have been discovered in a timely fashion.
      So lovely to hear from you. Thanks for commenting.
      Please keep in touch and love to all of you.


  4. People say 'how do you cope', but I've got it easy compared to some. Some days I maybe lose sight of that, but I think we can all be allowed a little bit of self pity now and again.

    My sister, who lost her daughter recently, seems to get everything thrown at her. She had previously lost two sons over twenty yeanty years ago (different problems) It does seem unfair. Extremely unfair. All I can do is think 'how does she get through each day', but somehow she does. And I have to say that it puts my own problems into perspective.

    All the best for Benjy's surgery x

    1. Oh Liz -that is so tough for your sister. The loss of 3 children seems too much for anyone to cope with. I hope she is able to find the strength, resilience and peace to pick herself up again from this latest loss. Very hard on you too.
      Its hard to explain how we cope with tough things. While you are in these situations you do not have time to think about them, you just take it hour by hour. I think it's important to sit with the feelings that come with each challenge for a while and acknowledge them Certainly denying them is not helpful in the long run....

      I hope you are having some good days and I think you cope with a lot, with such a great attitude and sense of humor. Wallowing allows you to laugh and vice versa.

      Take care

  5. My dear Gilly,

    Have only just "caught up' with this particular Brainstorm - although read its successor days ago!
    Am so very sorry to read about Benjy's forthcoming surgery: shoulders are a real "pain in the neck"....not even approaching funny analogy, I know.......have had torn rotator cuff for about 8 years....but not as bad as Benjy's shoulder problem........
    Life isn't fair..............some people sail through life with few health problems....others like you have just too, too much with which to cope.....people say that G-d doesn't give one more than one can cope with....sometimes it's hard to believe Your family my beloved Mummy Shula's with a husband diagnosed with MS 6 months after they were married..........then Godfrey in hospital for five years..... it must be hard to be - and think - positive all the are are wonderful, Gilly, I am often amazed at what you write.
    My heart & very much love are with you all: enjoy your zip lining, etc......Damien & Gili did that on their Costa Rica honeymoon & loved it.....and, BTW...if Oprah did it....well....!

  6. Dear Carmel,
    Thank you for your lovely message. I'm so glad you posted it on the blog. There is no doubt that the tough stuff is not dealt out evenly. Acknowledging that and having others do the same is actually very helpful and affirming that it's not all in your head. It's much easier to move on then.
    Jacob will certainly do the zip line. I may stay closer to the ground!
    Love to you and Happy Hanukkah.