Lessons of Caregiving: Saying No To Star Wars

Would you mind if I shared some rather personal things today?  I hope not and I hope you’ll take what I write understanding I am writing from heart and soul.  It is the heart of husband and father.  The heart of a pastor and Jesus-follower.  The heart of cancer survivor and a cancer caregiver.

I realized this morning it is one of “those weeks.”  It is busy, yes, but it is more than that alone.  It is a realization that many of the roads I have travelled are going to and are intersecting this week.  Where to start though?  

One of my former students and long time friends, Brandon, asked me when tickets were about to go on sale for the new Star Wars, if he, Whit and I were going to try and get together.  The three of us saw the midnight showings for all the Prequels together.  At the same, my friends in the Hothlanta Rebels were making similar plans.  My answer to both was simple but hard: No.

It isn’t like I haven’t had to do the same thing for the better part of two hunting seasons now and plans to section hike the A.T. and many other things.  This is what is unseen about being a caregiver with someone with a terminal or life-threatening illness.  I have learned this in my cancer caregiver support group.  I learned this from the wonderful caregivers I spent time with through Inheritance of Hope’s NYC Trip this past Thanksgiving.  I’m not speaking this just for me but for all the caregivers who have to say no every day to their lives, their friends, their hopes and their dreams.

In reality, we all have said a more profound, more resounding, and more soulful: Yes.

We are saying yes to the promises we made on wedding days.  We are saying yes to the responsibility of being a parent.  We are saying yes out of loyalty to the sacrifices our parents made.  In some cases, it is the integrity of a fiance giving up everything to care for a wedding day that may never come or a friend committed fully to another.  

But it is a yes that comes with a price.

Diseases that are terminal take life.  They also kill dreams and crush hopes.  They destroy families and relationships.  Sometimes the effects are sudden and crushing.  Reading, hearing and experiencing those times is awful.  I know.  Sometimes though, it is death by a million papercuts.  For me, it is saying no to a movie which, under nearly any other circumstance, I would have never missed.  It is saying no to numerous invitations to sneak away for just a few hours to hunt because, well, you don’t know what is coming next.

But this week, I also go for my regular blood work and ultrasound on my remaining testicle because I’m not only a cancer care-giver, I am a cancer survivor.  The odds are so slim I’ll have a recurrence of testicular cancer but it IS a possibility and I do not get a pass on this.  I do not get a pass on my health, I can no longer take anything for granted.  I do not get to pass this off.  I said yes on January 15, 1995 and I don’t get to give up.  I said yes twice to the responsibility of being a dad.  So if that means I have to fight cancer, or a disease that takes half my vision or migraines, then so be it.  

I said yes to those three people.   Loving them means I have to say no.

Caregivers are not trying to be jerks.  We really would love to go out even just for a quick breakfast or lunch with you.  Heck, a text message or voice mail is great.  A lot of times, we’re so behind we cannot even hope to answer your call as bad as we want to.  When you think a caregiver is not doing anything, if you see a post that their watching Netflix or playing Farmville, you’re wrong.  They are recovering.  They are breathing.  They are taking the one moment they have to come up for air.

It is not so simple for us to just have somebody else come in and help.  We pay a price for saying yes and we also pay a price for saying no.  We learn this as we go along I think and we had no idea and nobody could possibly convey the price to us.  

I was writing this in part to tell everyone to please NOT ask me about if I got tickets for the new Star Wars movie or ask if I’ve seen it or if I’m going to see it.  But the last few weeks have shown me I’m not alone in this, not about Star Wars but about life.  So if you read this and you know a caregiver, if you’re a family member of a caregiver or a friend of a caregiver this holiday season, please consider giving a very simple gift…

Say to them, “Thank you for saying YES.  Thank you for living out love.  Thank you for being a living example of integrity.  Thank you for saying yes to serving someone else.”  

Remember, sometimes love means saying no.

And here is my yes:

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