I found out some years ago my best friend (who I lived with) had cancer. It was a devastating blow. It didn’t bother her all of the time, but there were days she endured a lot. Most of the suffering was in silence. Elaine had jobs and dreams and hopes for the future. Cancer was an uninvited distraction.
Finally, I persuaded her to go to a doctor. The doctor confirmed the cancer diagnosis — mild, at the time — and prescribed treatment: medicine and therapy amongst others. The medicine cost Elaine a significant amount of money each month and Elaine didn’t always like how it made her feel. In addition, Elaine didn’t want anyone to know she went to therapy.
After many months, Elaine assured me she could push through without treatment. I believed her. Three quarters of a year passed, and her cancer progressed. Slowly. Quietly. On good days, she could almost forget about it. Great for me, as her housemate. On bad days, I tried to talk to her. Encourage her. I was her cancer coach. But I knew little to nothing at the time.
In the late summer, the cancer took her over, refusing to be ignored. Elaine suffered very severe pain. Pain that made her want to die. She reached out to me. In a panic, I called a doctor for help. The Doctor said Elaine needed to go to a hospital immediately.
While at the hospital, Elaine’s cancer was assessed. New doctors gave her new medicine and urged her to follow orders to the letter. They said she had a good chance, as long as she followed his treatment plan. That was a brief positive.
Though Elaine was still in recovery, she went back to work. But it proved to be too much for her too soon. She was still in pain. She couldn’t concentrate. Her coworkers didn’t understand. Some co-workers spoke about her behind her back. Words fail me in respect of these people.
Human resources couldn’t understand why Elaine wasn’t performing as well as before and the relationship began to crack between Elaine and Human Resources.
After another hospital stay and treatment plan, Elaine found another job with a new company. It was a business led by a lady who she knew and who knew about her strengths and her cancer and was willing to accommodate.
Regretfully Elaine’s doctor did not approve. He called her into his office to give out. She was told that her cancer was so advanced that she should not work.
Confused, Elaine began paperwork to qualify for disability. Everyone in the process was amazed at how sick she was and how long she had suffered. One of Elaine’s doctors said her cancer was one of the most advanced he had seen.
The battle against this cancer brought her to the Emergency Department and subsequent hospital stays several more times throughout the year. At one such stay, I sat beside Elaine’s hospital bed and asked her about dying. She said, “I don’t want to die, but I am so tired of living.
I fought against the reality of that sentence: She was giving up.
Elaine’s family gave a lot of help. Elaine’s suffering seemed to diminish a great deal. Elaine was still in a lot of physical pain every day, but she kept getting out of bed. She got dressed. She took her medicine. She went to all of her appointments.
Ultimately, one day in the middle of August, she was gone.
I told you my best friend Elaine had cancer. But I lied.
The truth is she had depression.
Elaine died from major depressive disorder.
Read this again. Change every instance of the word “cancer” to “depression.”
Does your opinion change?
I hope not.
*Elaine passed 13.09.12