Cancer Lesson #76: We are not in control.


For most of my life, I’ve deluded myself into believing I am somehow in control.

Getting cancer swept that illusion away, but the lesson proved astoundingly easy to forget once I started feeling better.

Today, though, I was reminded once again just how helpless we all are.

We fool ourselves into thinking there’s always something we can do to make things better, whether it’s for ourselves or for those we love.

And sometimes there just isn’t.

Still, I find it hard to give in, to surrender this illusion of control, though I know it is only an illusion. It’s just so damned hard to realize there are some situations you can’t fix.

Maybe that’s why we find it difficult to deal with terminal or serious illness.

What do we do when nothing we do will help?

I don’t know the answer to that question. Maybe all we can do is admit we don’t know what to do and ask if there’s something we haven’t thought of.

And when we have the opportunity to do anything – however small – that will make someone’s life a tiny bit better, we should act.

Because there will be times when there’s nothing we can do.

8 thoughts on “Cancer Lesson #76: We are not in control.

  1. True words. Sometimes all you can do is just be there with them in the last journey. Even that is better than nothing, and no matter how painful or uncomfortable for us, it’s nothing compared to what they’re going through, so if they want company, it’s the least we can do. Just be present to witness, and give thanks for a good life when it’s done.


    • It’s hard though, to admit you can’t do anything. After I posted this, I thought perhaps it’s more a life lesson than a cancer one. My 85-year-old mom has recently developed problems with atrial fibrillation, and even though her heart is back in rhythm, I worry that this is the beginning of the beginning of the end. I can’t imagine a world without her.


      • My mother wanted to die at home, and we promised her she would. So we gave up college, careers, and so on so that she could be nursed around the clock. At the end, the pain medication meant she wasn’t really with us, and all we could do was sit and hold her hand. It was something practical we could do, it’s what she asked of us, and it gave us a small measure of relief from the pain of loss, knowing she’d died at home surround by familiar things, her husband and children. The world is indeed a different place without our mothers…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mine told me a story today about a woman who lives in her senior housing estate. Evidently the woman was wheelchair bound and fell and also had fallen and broken her arm in two places. She had a bad night and was, I guess, unable to get to the toilet. As I sat there wondering why Mom was telling me this, Mom said, “She didn’t want to move into a nursing home, but she’s going to have to. Her kids need to make her.” Then she said something about that’s what we should do if she got like that. I just keep praying she’ll be like her mother and die peacefully in her chair. But so few people do.


      • I know the feeling. My father is 92 and still pretty active, although his short term memory is a black hole. Since he has no real major health issues, we all hope that one day he’ll simply fail to wake up.


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