bonding over chemotherapyIn a moment of narcissism, I googled “Bonding Time Blog.”  I guess I just wanted to see my name up in lights.  What I found was the Family “Bond”ing Time blog, which chronicles the lives of Nathan and Elisa Bond, 38 and 36 years old respectively, who were diagnosed with Stage III rectal cancer (Nathan) and Stage IV breast cancer (Elisa) within months of each other.  They have an 18-month-old daughter Sadie.

The blog recounts their experiences, replete with MRIs, brain scans, chemo, and days on the playground with Sadie.  Some entries are moving; some are funny; some are instructional without being pedantic: how to balance living like there’s no tomorrow, with living like there’s absolutely going to be a tomorrow.

No matter who you are, or what your circumstance, remaining in a place of gratitude is its own struggle.  The Bonds write about that, with candor and beauty.  It took me back years to when I worked in an oncology center, doing counseling with cancer patients and their families.

It wasn’t traditional therapy.  Sometimes I talked to people while their IVs dripped chemo, and they’d nod off when the Ativan took over at the end.  I was paged to exam rooms when bad news had just been given.  There was a ten-year-old girl who couldn’t talk while sitting still, so we’d go exploring while her mother had her appointments.  We found all sorts of hidden nooks, and she told me all kinds of things she wouldn’t have if we were face to face rather than side by side.

The work was painful at times, immensely gratifying at others.  What I loved about it was that there was no time for small talk.  It was all big talk.  People had to think about what was most important to them–who was most important–and factor that into their days in a way that we sometimes forget to.  The thing about getting sick is, you’re forced to slow down.  I met people who used that extra time to reflect, and to connect.  I also saw relationships fall apart under the strain.

I guess what I feel when I read the Bonds’ blog is that they’re playing the hand they’re dealt as well as anyone can.  They’re truly playing it together.  It’s imperfect, and they’re comfortable expressing that. Elisa writes about times she’s annoyed, and annoying.  There’s no false bravado in the face of illness.  They’re afraid together.

It feels like a good model for the rest of us.  Life has its own momentum, and its tiny urgencies, and it’s so easy to lose sight of the people we love.  We tune out; we keep things to ourselves; or we make small talk.  We do subsistence level engagement instead of deeper connection.  We just get by.

Sometimes, we all have to just get by in our relationships.  Nothing wrong with that.  But it’s also important to slow down, take a moment, and reflect. Appreciate your good fortune, or share your misery.  They’re both valuable ways to connect.  Whatever you’re in, be glad you’re not alone in it.

Hospital scene photo available from Shutterstock