Comforting the sick and those who care for them

Writer Susan Sontag once wrote that all of us hold citizenships in the kingdom of the well and the kingdom of the sick. We’d rather reside in the former. If we keep living our citizenship papers to the latter will eventually get punched.

Those of us who get sick rarely travel to the kingdom of the sick alone. The sick bring along their healthy loved ones who hold what turns out to be a work visa. Spouses, children, parents become reluctant but devoted conscripts. Their emotions wax and wane depending on the outcome of the latest battery of tests and whether or not their patient is having a good or bad day.

Spouses do double duty. Older siblings become the care givers to younger brothers and sisters who realize that they need to grow up faster than they expected. It is hard. Healthy children become afterthoughts while the attention and treatment is directed to the sick parent or child.

Healthy kids who become internally displaced in the kingdom of the sick have one of two reactions. They can jealously hold on to the the attention to which they believe they are entitled but no longer receive, or they can respond by displaying the compassion, empathy and a sense of purpose that comes when crisis requires a person to embrace a higher calling.

The members of Stand Up To Cancer, display the latter qualities. Stand Up To Cancer is a  student group at Saint Mary’s College. Each year, the group holds a prom for cancer survivors and their caregivers. This year’s prom took place on March 2.

All of these young ladies could have been doing something else on a Saturday night.  Eddy Street Commons isn’t that far away from campus. Yet, they were at Haggar Hall dancing to pop music and lavishing attention on the survivors and their care givers.

One student stood out as an example of leadership. Lauren Meyer is a Saint Mary’s student and vice-president of Stand Up to Cancer. Her mother, Lisa Meyer, who is a four year survivor of non Hodgkins Lymphoma. Lauren was in high school when her mother received the diagnosis. She admitted feeling overwhelmed at first. Yet, she helped out by watching her younger brother, Mark, when her mother was sick and father Brad was attending to his wife.

Lauren left for college, but she never forgot how the cancer diagnosis changes the lives the patient and the family members. That’s why she helped form Stand Up to Cancer.

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