Monday, January 19, 2009

We're doing okay.

One of the hardest questions that we get asked is 'How are you guys doing? I discovered sometimes we are frustrating others. These frustrated people are all aware of our situation.
Fact 1. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Chemo is not fun.
Fact 2. Tim's plant suddenly closed. Unemployment is not fun.
Some folks stick around after hearing the initial response that we were doing okay. 'How's chemo?' they asked. Or 'Has Tim had any luck finding another job?' We answer those questions too. 'Chemo is hard and I am really dreading going back to the cancer center this week'. Or, 'Tim has tested for two jobs but there have been no interviews yet. We're keeping our fingers crossed.' We talk and visit and are encouraged. Other people walk away after they hear that we are fine. In some cases, we hear later that we are 'impossible to help'. It makes me feel badly, as if we are difficult people, but I'm not sure what other response we could give. We're doing okay.
I've seen Tim cry only two or three times in my life. He's not a real emotional charactor. I, myself am a sap, but am not generally a 'bursting into tears' kind of girl around others(although I'm more inclined to burst into tears now than I used to be). That rules out a tearful response when people ask us how we're doing. We both believe in God, and have made up our mind that although this is a hard time, we will behave as Godly people. We will try our best not to be discouraged and we will look for the blessings. There have been many. The fact of the matter is that Tim and I have always been careful, frugal people. With five children, we had no choice. Our goal was to get them through college. Tim and I have lived our lives without that education. We are both very intelligent people, but a lot of good jobs require not only that you be intelligent, but that you have a college diploma to guarantee it. We made up our minds early that all five of ours would go to college and to that end, we have lived very carefully. We have never had cable TV. My clothes are second hand (but I hasten to assure you I dress very well). We heat our home and our water with wood from our own woods. Our diet consists of, primarily, venison. We have two deer in the freezer. We drive older cars and have no car payments. We have a comfortable home, but we have put off remodeling the kitchen and the downstairs bathroom. They work. They're not pretty, but they're neat, and there will be time for all of that later. Our focus is on the future...our own and our children. So when you ask us how we're doing, well, financially, nothing has changed really. We're still frugal. We'll both feel better once Tim is employed again, but unemployment has not really cramped our style. We are not feeling especially pinched, so the first words that spring to our lips is 'We're doing okay.'
Chemo is hard. I am discouraged, and I do not want to go back to the cancer center this week. I don't. I'm just everlastingly weary of the treatments, of feeling awful, and picking myself up, of enduring, of being brave, keeping that stiff upper lip. I get discouraged, sometimes, I cry, sometimes. I also pray and prayers are answered. I have a good husband. I have good kids who can make me laugh. I have friends who know how to cheer me up. Small miracles happen on a fairly regular basis, and I am glad for them. So if you ask me how I'm doing, the first response that springs to my lips is going to be 'I'm doing okay'.
We are not being dishonest here. We are not trying to push people away. I have said, from the beginning, that this time will be a time to watch God at work, close up. It is true. He is working. That is how it can be, when you ask us how we're doing, even in these dark, dark days, our answer is, invariably, "We're doing okay."
I always thought that people would be encouraged to hear that.


Mama Zen said...

What an inspiring post!

Pencil Writer said...

Yes, you are. I don't understand, either, why people can't understand that you can be "doing okay" without "meaining we're sitting on top of the world", but rather that "we're struggling". It's not easy but, by trusting in God, we're okay.

Keep on keeping on. There are those of us who continue to pray for you/your family knowing it's tough but do-able. May God continue to bless and keep you--and help those who don't understand to grow in understanding and emulation! Smiles and hugs.

A Novel Woman said...

You are a wise, articulate, interesting and amazing person.

Technonana said...

Yes, Sweet One, it is when things are hard that we find out who our true friends are. I may not be able to put my arms around you and give you a hug, but I can give you some encouragement. These are indeed dark days!! I would be remiss if I were to say they weren't. But YOUR God is in control, yes, even in this!! There are many who are and have been where you are!! Seek them out, talk to them.
My oldest daughter has a friend that found she had breast cancer at 34, with three small children. Jennifer is doing more than okay, but she uses her situation to help others, and I am sure she would reach out to you. I don't have her email address, but you can go to my daughter's blog and ask for it. They would both be happy to help in any way they can.
You and your family are in my prayers!!
Sharon in SC

Hal Johnson said...

I'd say, considering everything as well as I'm able, that you're doing artfully okay.

quid said...

I've gone back to Greek mythology lately...fairytales for the adults among us. Thinking of that and of your blog caused me to remember something I hope you'll like...


Odyssey by Molly Balfour
on my personal odyssey through cancer

I endeavour to be -

As strong as Atlas
Easily bearing my burden;
As brave as Perseus
Killing this snake-headed Medusa;
As heroic as Herakles
Overcoming all the challenges;
Finding my way through the twisting maze;
As energetic as Hermes
Out and about flying on winged heels;
As wise as Athena
Being both mindful and inventive;
Charmed by Orpheus
Letting sweet music kill care and heartache.
For I want to be
Like Aphrodite
Rising from the dark sea into the brightness.

I find your writing to be refreshingly honest and without artifice.

Kelly said...

I love this poem Quid has shared.

I agree with her final comment, Debby... your posts are a delight to read and I admire your honesty and your spirit.

Portia said...

Debby, You are still counting your blessings despite the suffering, that says what an amazing person you are. There is also a lesson in there about saving and preparing for a rainy day, that is a trait I'm trying to instill in my kids.

We also have a deer in the freezer and now that the backstraps and steaks are gone I'm trying to figure out how to best use the rest. Any favorite recipes you'd care to share?

Let me know which day you will be getting chemo and I will pray for you all through the day.

Stuart Peel said...

Good for both of you. We're rooting for you over here.

Bush Babe said...

Your 'doing OK' lets me know your head is above the waterline. It encourages, for sure. It encourages THIS friend, but I be one of those annoying people who will wait for more. In case you need to share.

Perhaps these other people imply the unsaid question: what can we do to help you? Do you think this may be the case? Sometimes people need to feel needed. You can allow them to help, or just reassure them as you have been. Now is no time to be worrying about assauging others. And perhaps the "impossible to help" statement is made in admiration? Who knows.

Stay focussed. Know you are doing an amazing job - you and your Tim. And your family. A great job.

Huge hugs

Bruce Terhune said...

I have to say that the question "How are you doing?" is one of the most conmmonly asked questions ever. It also may be one of the most feared questions to ask, especially when the answer is uncomfortable to hear and/or say. I confess that I have avoided contacting you and Tim because I thought you were most likely tired of hearing the question. I am glad you started this blog. You have a great partner and helpmate in Tim. You both are so lucky to have each other and God. People out this way are praying for you.

Scotty said...

'Doing okay' can mean different things to different people, that's for sure, and the fact that you can say the words during difficult times is probably a good indicator that, with all the tools, friends, and family at your disposal, you really are doing okay in all the best ways you can.


Laura said...

"Fine" is another variation on "doing okay." I wish people would understand that just their compassion is enough, no one is asking them to wave their magic wand and make everything all better, but feel for you, for me, for those you care for.

Thoughts of care and comfort, healing and work, to you and your husband.

Anonymous said...

Deb, it's not your worry or role to encourage or discourage, just to answer. People ask you how you are doing because they care. THEY CARE. They don't expect suppport from you - and by jimminy you do not need to expell the energy required to do so.
And if they DO expect you to expel that much energy then they are not in your life for the right reasons.

OK, so I have strong feelings on this. I CARE - sue me.

Bob said...

You are such an encouragement, Debby. If someone else is not encouraged, that is his/her problem. The fact that you can even say you "are doing okay" is amazing. What a testimony. God is good.

nanatrish said...

Debby, you are so honest and I love your writing. You have a great talent. Like Sharon, I would give you a hug and I wish I could do something else. I do pray for you and love your posts. So many people don't know how to be real. I appreciate your open way and you are smart. Most of us would be freaking out if we lost our jobs. You were frugal and smart and it sounds like you are a very loving mother. I hope someday to get to meet you. trish

Lavinia said...

Hi Debby. I like what Pencil Writer wrote. I echo those sentiments. I also heartily echo what nanatrish wrote, she expresses herself so sweetly. You know, sometimes hanging in there is all any of us can do. Sometimes during trying times, I remind myself, this too shall pass. I know its a cliche, a very old one, but it does offer some light at the end of the tunnel, at least it reminds me that there is an end to the tunnel!

Debby said...

Quid, yes, I liked the poem very much.

Everyone else - you were responsible today, all of you, for an epiphany. Of course I will write about it. Stay tuned. Same bat time. Same bat channel.

jeanie said...

Oh Deb - but really, tell us what you feel!!!

I am afraid that the topic, unless you initiate another, will be of the issues that are top of their mind when they see you - and currently they are chemo and employment.

Every time someone asks about V at the moment it is about the work situation (climate, knee and economy conspiring for me to have a cleaner house).

When P died, there was a lot of "how are you" type questions, and man I was in a funk in those days and silently spat bile at well-meaning people who wanted to mine my misery - when they weren't really.

If they could have found something else to talk about, no doubt they would have talked about anything else - but at least they spoke to me and asked the question, because I wasn't a lovely girl to be around on the truly bleak days.

I think, as my sister said, people just want to know what to do - we are all pretty clueless - and it is the only thing we can ask as we sit by helpless.

Hand us the vacuum cleaner, love, and boil the kettle.

Martha said...

Beautiful post and I send my best as you go through treatment and your husband finds work. Thank you for visiting my blog today.