Nobody tells you that terminal cancer is not like in the movies.
You can’t put your life on hold and all gather around the sick person. It doesn’t work like that. You have to carry on with life, living each day as well as you can. Never able to fully forget or let go; your hand permanently attached to your phone, waiting for the next text or phone call.
Nobody mentions that cancer isn’t linear. You can spend a weekend with an unresponsive parent; coming to terms with saying goodbye… and then they come back to life. Nobody can tell you how long they’ve got left. You always have to be prepared.
Nobody warns you that you will lose friends. Because transitioning between real life and hospital life becomes too hard. Hospital feels clinical and safe and moving back out into the world is overwhelming. They don’t warn you that you will be so tired from traveling back and forth, from holding yourself together and being there for everyone else that you forget to reply to texts. Friends become strangers.
Nobody talks about how traumatic it is. The nights spent curled up, crying, wondering if life will ever settle again. They don’t talk about how the dying person tries to leave you with bits of them. How they plan 30 years into your future whilst you’re struggling to accept the now. They don’t talk about what happens after death; when the person is gone and you have to develop a new normal.
Nobody can ever understand what it’s like, unless they’ve been through it. How your whole life can be on hold but also moving so fast. How you learn to play a part, act out a role, paint the right picture. They can never understand how much it physically and emotionally hurts, or how your whole body can cry.
Nobody warns you that it’s not like the movies. You can’t switch off when you start crying. You can’t pause it when it gets too difficult. There are no balloons, no presents from big companies, no meetings with famous people. There is just you, your family, your friends, and your loved one attempting to make some sense of a situation which has no meaning. Working together to find some peace, acceptance, and the courage to keep going.