28 May 13 Compassion Fatigue


I realized that I really do not post very much anymore. I still journal, but not post. There are other things in life to see and do that are not cancer related. Seeing as how this blog was about my cancer journey, I hesitate to write about any other topics.

Then I realized that was not the real reason. The real reason was that I was tired to writing about cancer, thinking about cancer, talking about cancer, dealing with cancer: everything cancer. Facebook is looked at once in a while rather than non-stop. It is too difficult to see how many of my friends either have a new diagnosis, new treatments, recurrences, or have lost the fight.

Speaking with a great friend of mine, who is a true cancer champion for herself and many others, I reaffirmed the obvious (to me): I am done, for now. See, I have mentioned many times how the journey to healing from cancer is a long one with many similarities to the grieving process. There are stages to be dealt with daily. Interestingly enough, one of the stages is to just be DONE. All of us get to a point where I am, and where this friend is. WE are done. It’s not that we are unsympathetic; it was more like a compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue was where you tire of doing good works. Compassion fatigue comes from fighting for something that has many setbacks, and you finally hit a wall, and need a break to regroup, recharge, and move on. Sometimes you move on in a totally different direction. Any volunteer agency sees this all too well. In my field of animal rescue, we spend hours every day explaining to people why they should spay and neuter their pets, and hours later with those same people explaining why we are too full to take in their unspayed cat that is now spraying all over their house. It’s never ending, it’s exhausting. We go through many volunteers who cannot do the job. They find themselves crying and yelling out of frustration knowing that the cat is suffering, and they cannot get through to the owners.

These are great people, with great compassion, who are tired because the reality was that these are never ending battles. No matter how much we do, and no matter how hard we work, there will never be an end to the problem. When that reality was more than we could handle, that was compassion fatigue.

I think it is also the reason why so many survivors do not wish to talk about the fact that they are survivors anymore. They are tired of the stories. They are tired of the “I knew a gal, blah blah blah, who died.” We know how this ends for too many of us. To keep our own hope, we step back into the non-cancer world as if stepping into fresh air. No hospital smells. No starched sheets. No medications. No treatments. No cancer. No death. Just life.

It is what it is, and it is alright. Breathe in, breathe out, and just do the next thing. Be kind to yourself, this stage is normal, too.



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