Sympathy and Empathy

Cancer from the view of an eight year old:A few years ago my mother was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I was pretty uneducated on the seriousness of cancer at the time considering I was only eight. So when my father sat my siblings and I down, it was not all that concerned about my mothers health. Some chicken noodle soup and some rest and she will be back to making our lunches in the morning. It also helped that my dad withheld the fact that when my mother was diagnosed it was stage three and the doctors gave her two days.

Once my mother started telling people about her cancer the food started flooding in. I thought it was awesome. All these dinners were made for my family and they were delicious! The neighbors, relatives and strangers would come and hug me tight with tears in the eyes saying “be strong”, “its okay to be sad”, “can I pray for you?”. Why did these people care so much? Everything was fine. That changed. One day my mom hid behind the door and when I came home from school she jumped out and yelled surprise. She has cut all her long blonde hair off because in a few days it would start to fall out and she would be bald from the chemo. I was so mad. Why would she cut off all her long and beautiful hair? Another time she was sitting on the couch covered in blankets and a hat covering her bald head and she was so sick. I just looked at her and said “I don’t even know who you are”. That must have broken her heart. I look back at it now with tears because it was so selfish of me to say that but I was so little and I didn’t understand. My mother was so strong.

I would say the worst memory was when I was leaving the hospital one night and we said goodbye. I didn’t know if that was the last time I was going to see her. I was crying so hard when we left and she did everything she could to keep it together. I found out later in life that my mother made a video for the kids saying how much she loved us and how much she was going to miss us. I think the emotion that I felt the most during my mothers cancer was anger. I was so angry that God chose to do this to my mother because she was such a good woman.

Dad, My hero: The people who gave food and watched the kids, they had sympathy for us. They did what they could to help my mother but they never fully understood that we were falling apart. They wanted to know how I was and helped as much as they could but at the end of the day they could go home to a healthy family. They could sleep well and know that tomorrow would still be okay for them. They didn’t know that what my family felt wasn’t sadness, depression, or hurt. It was anger. My family wanted so much more for my mother, we wanted her life to be so much longer. The person that had actual empathy and got me and my family though was my father. Which makes sense because he too was going through the same emotions, probably a lot worse actually. I remember one time when I was sitting in the corner of the hospital room, silent. My father came over to me and said, ” I know Laurel. Im so angry too”. It shocked me because up until then I could not figure out what I was feeling. There was no boundaries. He didn’t say I am angry too but lets not show it. He wanted me to know that I was not alone and that it was okay and very valid for me to feel angry. It also wasn’t him talking to me, cause we didn’t talk all that much, that made me feel better. It was the fact that he always stayed close. That he was physically there for us as well as emotionally.

My mom survived and as been cancer free for many years. I still have trouble with fear and anxiety because of the uncertainty from it but my whole family walked and still walks together in it. The Trujillo’s made it through because of each other and are so much closer because of it. All of us know what it is like to cherish every moment since there is no guarantee to how many we have.


One thought on “Sympathy and Empathy

  1. Laurel,

    Thank you for sharing this. My mom had cancer when I was 4 or 5 so I don’t remember it, but I know from hearing her talk about it that it was really tough. I like how you end by talking about cherising every moment; living so far away from my family has made me appreciate them so much more.

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