Thursday, July 30, 2015


My friend D**** and I email each other many times a day. As thoughts strike us. She likes my cursing. I curse out what ails her and the sometimes appalling treatment by the medical people at the hospital, her occasional depressive thoughts, life. You know. It all helps. She's told to "Be brave" a lot. Have you ever heard of anything more unhelpful when you are scared to death of tumours lumping out the hidden organs of your body and half your bowel is lodged somewhere in the trash outside the hospital labs?

So I tell her to ask these medical morons to please change places with her - they can lie down in her bed and she can yell at them to be brave after she's sliced them open. I said that to a team of them once, when my surgical wound opened up and started bleeding all over the hospital floor and I was screaming and they said it to me. It shut them up.

For what is bravery? Those poor teenage soldiers in both "world" wars smiling while they were used as cannon fodder and slaughtered?

Chin barely quivering while biopsies confirm your worst fears?

Whimpering quietly under the covers when the pain meds fail to ease your suffering?

As far as I'm concerned not groaning/moaning/screaming/yelling in pain is just protecting the delicate sensibilities of those around us, right? It's a very good thing to let that pain out. Why bottle it up for the ulcers to play with?

I was sharing with some friends over dinner last night the fact that I am now terrified of walking in case the sudden paralysis in my legs stops me cold in my tracks, as has happened in the past, and heaven forbid I should burden someone with having to come and get me.

And we all had a good laugh, like gawd forbid we should be a nuisance to anyone even though we're crumpled on a heap on the road, breathing our last.

It must be Irish. Or something.

Let me die bravely, right here on main street.

Sorry for your trouble for having to shovel me off to the side.

D**** and I had a good laugh over that one.


  1. I think that one of the worst things in life is seeing someone you love in the kind of pain that you describe, and you can't do one thing about it to make it hurt less. Actually, I think it is a heavy grief to me to know that any person is in terrible pain. Sometimes being brave does not help at all.

  2. It's certainly not an Irish thing. The English "stiff upper lip" and all that. I do agree, if we're in pain and distress, we should say so and demand help. What's the point of bottling it all up and pretending everything's fine? All that means is more unrelieved suffering. And yes, the casual advice to "be brave" is idiotic.

    Sorry to hear about the paralysis in your legs. I certainly won't give you any simplistic advice about that. I hope you can find out the cause.

  3. When a person is in pain or fearful, is there any failsafe thing to say? Sometimes I think not. One might get lucky and say the "right" thing to the "right" person at the "right" time, but there are situations where one's mere presence is an affront. Think of the position of the husband as the wife is in the throes of hard labour. He cannot win! He is hated! Sometimes even saying nothing is resented; the person suffering cannot help it. Everything is coloured by pain and fear. I've bent over backwards trying to say something comforting or helpful to a friend in distress and still been "wrong" so am no longer confident whatsoever. It seems like a crapshoot, to me!

  4. We Hindus, at least the older ones that is, say this short prayer every day as part of our daily morning rituals and whenever the idea arises in the mind.
    "God, please grant me a death without hardship for me and those around me and a life without poverty" That is it. Nothing more nothing less from the higher power. If someone has to shovel us off the main street it will be that someone's problem, not mine.

  5. My favorite is when a nurse told me, as I was in full labor, to take a shower so as to "freshen up" for the doctor.

  6. I thought again this morning about you and the trauma you're enduring, too, as you absorb some part of another friend's pain and fear. I hope there's something that provides respite and cheer to you, too, to help you through this time.

  7. I echo the comment of Linda above and send hugs to both you and your friend.


Comments are welcome. Anonymous comments will be deleted unread.

Email me at wisewebwomanatgmaildotcom if you're having trouble.