Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How To Introduce an Elephant?

I know, I know...I hang my head in blogging shame, it's been so long since I've posted more than a picture.  Though, I do think I have the best "Get Out Of Blogging Free" card to play.

I just haven't known what direction I wanted to take this blog in...Get all serious and cancery?  Even though we, as a family, are not walking around like stricken souls?  Keep it light and jovial?  Even if it seems insensitive to Trey's current situation?

I figure that most of you who read this are already a 'member' of Trey's Facebook group, so to simply repeat what you've probably already read seems pointless, too.  Not to mention, I'm not exactly rolling around in free time these days...I mean, when Trey gets discharged from the hospital, there are A LOT of TV shows that I need to catch up on.

But, I have a thought that has been poking my brain for a while and maybe, just maybe, you have $.02 to throw in.  When Trey was first diagnosed, we obviously let all of our family and close friends know immediately. Then, Jay pretty quickly set up the "Pray (and more) For Trey" page on Facebook.  I had sent out emails to Joe and Bella's teachers to fill them in on what was happening, and Jay preached at church the Sunday after Christmas (Trey was diagnosed on Christmas Eve) and filled in the congregation.  My point to all that was pretty much everyone we knew (plus a ton that we didn't/don't know), knew about Trey.  Our community is relatively small, so I became accustomed to people that I didn't know personally coming up to me to talk about Trey, and people from all over the world (literally!) posting on Trey's FB page.  So, for me, it's an awkward situation when someone doesn't know Trey's story and I have to choose to tell them or not.

That's my question...How do you introduce the big, white elephant in the room?  I have 2 situations that have come up.  One resolved itself, though.

Jay and I had discussed setting up Trey's page on FB and keeping the very detailed updates on that page only.  This, in turn, freed up peoples news feeds that we are 'friends' with but who aren't necessarily interested in ALL of Trey's updates, plus since Jay and I have a long list of 'friends' in common, they would all have to see the updates twice.  Very considerate of us, right?  But, that also meant that some 'friends' were totally unaware of Trey's condition at all.  If you're not a FB regular, you would easily miss my status updates about what's been happening.  I noticed that one friend in particular wasn't a member of Trey's page and had not posted anything on my wall...and this is a person that I'm friends with in real life. (IRL for those of you who are 'down')  I didn't know if I should be offended, or just fill them in.  What should I do?  I don't add people to Trey's page unless they ask to be added, lest I be presumptuous.  And I certainly wasn't going to post on the person's wall "Hey, even though you haven't asked, here's what's been happening!"  This is the situation that resolved itself when I commented on one of the friend's pictures...they commented on my wall "Thanks! How are you?"  I took that opportunity to send that person a private message explaining what was going on, and Trey's diagnosis really was a surprise to them.

The second situation is stranger to stranger.  Let's set the scene.  I'm home with all the kids, Jay was out and about.  Everyone was ready for bed, waiting impatiently for their bedtime sack when the doorbell rang.  Who could be calling at this hour?  Oh, wait...it was only 7:45.  So, I left all the kids safely upstairs to answer the door.  It was 2 college age guys going door to door selling sets of children's books.  I've been down this road before...or should I say, they've been down our road before (every spring!  different guys, same shpeel!) and I already knew I wasn't going to buy a set from them to the tune of $12/book.  But, dude was pretty aggressive and sat himself down on a lawn chair and keeps chatting away despite the cries of hunger spilling out the front door.  A minute later, Joe and Bella were outside and all over them and their books.  I think they mastered the Spanish language by the time the guys left.  I, of course, had to retrieve Trey from the top of the steps and bring him out, too.  So, clearly Trey is bald...and not just bald, like a military 'high and tight', but shiny bald with no eyebrows or eye lashes either.  Plus, you can see the top of his bandage dressing that covers his IV peaking out of the top of his over sized sleep shirt.  The book guy obviously noticed but was too polite to ask why he was bald and bandaged, so I said nothing.  I had no idea how to broach the topic, so I said absolutely nothing about the big, white elephant.

What would you have done?  "This is Trey.  He has cancer and that's why he doesn't have any hair"?  "If you're wondering, he has cancer"?  What's the appropriate action here?  Jay is so good at talking to people and can easily parlay Trey's journey into a gospel message, but not me!  Especially not with two book sellin' dudes, 3 kids and a looming bedtime.  But, did I miss an opportunity?  Should I have to state the obvious?  Is it Obvious?  Really.  What would you have done?  How would you introduce an elephant?


Katy said...

Well, Rachel, I think you are an amazing example of a warrior family in every single aspect of your current fight. So no matter what you do in the future is the right thing.

I have absolutely nothing similar to draw upon to offer input except my cousin has Down Syndrome. When she was much younger, my aunt was always very forward if she suspected someone was staring and pondering. My aunt had this radar, like she knew when someone was thinking, "is it me or is there something different going on here?"

Aunt J always just said, "She has Down Syndrome" and smiled. This was whether she was engaged in conversation or not. If the person asked questions, it became a learning moment. If not, it was just, "oh. Ok then."

I wonder if this helps you plan for next time?

Rachel said...

Thanks Katy! I have a very vivid memory of being at the mall with a nanny...I think I was 5??? A girl with DS walked by with her mom, and the girl was holding a really cool pin wheel. Of course, I was eying up the shiny pin wheel, but the mom turned to me and said very sharply "What!?!? Do you want to play with her???" I was very embarrassed, obviously since I can still remember it so clearly. I'm sure you're aunt is much nicer than that woman...my point is that I don't want people to feel uncomfortable or put on the spot to have to come up with something appropriate to say. So,is it easier to ignore the obvious? Or be like your aunt and use it as a learning moment? Hmmmmm...

Melissa823 said...

You know what I think? I think it's obvious and you don't need to say anything. Maybe, "he's not feeling well these days." or something like that if someone is looking like they want to say something. People know, and they feel sad that he's sick, and they don't know what to say. That's not on you, though. It's just empathy I think; an unspoken connection of compassion that we don't see enough anymore. I don't think it needs words.

Melissa Rose said...

I agree with Melissa! I would have no idea what to say in that situation- on either side of the fence. but I do agree that just about any person would understand what is going on. it can be paralyzing to some people to come up with words they think are appropriate to address Trey's cancer and treatment, especially if they don't know you guys personally. sometimes it's easier or maybe more comfortable to not say anything- but it's not for lack of understanding. without a doubt, that silence is full of compassion and broken-heartedness for little Trey.