Here’s a question: when it comes to bad news are you a ‘”I want to know everything” or a “Don’t tell me, I’d rather not know” kind of person?
I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately. It’s coming up to the first anniversary of Simon’s death, and it makes me remember back to his diagnosis, going through the process of finding out how sick he was, treatment, ending treatment, giving up.
One of the biggest factors in the ending of our relationship was that we handled the bad news so differently. His reaction to finding out he had lymphoma was to assume it would be fine and leave it at that. I wanted to know everything about it. I read everything I could about the cancer – causes, treatments, success rates, morbidity rates. Sometimes I had to stop when it got too scary (10% survival rates, no known successful treatment), but I always went back to do more research as we reached a new stage in the diagnosis-treatment process. It was a comfort to me.
Simon got his comfort from not knowing. He preferred to know as little as possible. He trusted his doctors to make the best decisions about his treatment, and he had no interest in discussing other options. He didn’t want to discuss death. It wasn’t going to happen. I heard him once telling someone on the phone that he had “mild cancer”.
So you can imagine it was difficult, for us both. Here’s me, busily becoming a lymphoma encyclopaedia and wanting to talk about it all, and Simon trying his hardest to pretend it wasn’t happening.
And how we each dealt with this devastating news reflected fairly accurately how we approached life in general. I’m an all-in kind of person. I like jumping in and worrying about how to do it later. Simon was a ‘slow and steady, read the manual before he opened the box’ kind of guy. We infuriated each other a lot because this. I’d be racing off to try some new thing, he’d be hanging back saying “can we just THINK about this for a minute”!?
I miss Simon a lot, and I think the thing that makes me saddest is that he didn’t accept the fact of his mortality, and so it was something we couldn’t share. I’d hope that, faced with the same situation, I’d handle it differently. How do you think you’d handle it?