Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Report Card

"I can't believe all these people who have just come out of the woodwork to help us!" This coming from a young mom with breast cancer.

"Well," I said, "Getting a cancer diagnosis is like getting a report card on how you've treated people, on what kind of person you've been all these years. So it sounds like you and your husband are getting straight A's."

She smiled and then asked, "But what about the people who seemed like our friends and now suddenly aren't there?"

I just hate it when one of my brilliant analogies falls apart.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Dumbledore To The Rescue

I’m always looking for new ways to talk about death. The latest was given to me by a patient named Elizabeth who, like myself, is a big Harry Potter fan. She also is the mother of two small children and has an aggressive type of breast cancer.

I’m sure by now you all know that Harry’s mentor Dumbledore died in the next-to-last book. Both Elizabeth and I agreed that what we found so moving and inspiring was Dumbledore’s influence on Harry after Dumbledore’s death.

“You know,” she wrote in an e-mail, “Even though Dumbledore really did die, he continued to “exist” for Harry, not in a supernatural way, but in whatever knowledge, insight, wisdom and courage he gave Harry before he died. I think it’s the same way for us. We can set so much in motion by affecting the way people will think and act as they move through the world. And if you listen hard enough to know who they are and what to give them, people will figure it out without you.”

Of course the “people” to whom she is referring are her children. Elizabeth and I have talked about death before and as she said, “I’m perfectly okay with death, whenever that happens. I suspect I’ll have the easy part. But thinking about my kids without a mommy/protector/secret keeper scares the living crap out of me.”

“What helps you with that?” I asked.

She answered, “When I start to freak out about my kids losing me, I can chant the ever-so-comforting mantra ‘Dumbledore.’ And I think about all the Sirius Blacks, Molly Weasleys, and Remus Lupins who would love and care for my kids because I convinced them to love us, and even the reluctant Snapes and Aberforths who would help them because I'm going to convince them they must. And course my husband would be pretty reliable too.”

Almost every parent I meet considers their kids to be special. Harry Potter is special and he is also an orphan and that is the fear of every parent with cancer—that their kids will be without a mom or without a dad.

I want to comfort other patients and explain to them about Dumbledore “existing” after he died and that they will too. I want to urge them to look for the Molly Weasleys and Remus Lupins in their lives.

But many people haven’t read Harry Potter.
So I’m thinking Harry Potter should be required reading for every parent with cancer.

Or just anybody.