Help Your Loved Ones Understand What You’re Going Through

Energy is like many things in life. You don’t think much about it until it’s not there.

Often times, women with breast cancer “look OK.” But our reality is that we are FAR from “OK.”

For me, I was mostly horizontal as I went through surgeries and chemo. (I was spared radiation). The effects of chemo are cumulative. That means that with each additional round of chemo, you end up with less and less energy. The decline is slow, but the comeback is even slower. As my body healed from the ravages of treatment, I truly couldn’t tell that I was improving day by day. Instead I had to look at my healing from week to week—one week I didn’t have the energy to stand and fold a load of laundry, but the next week I did.

Soon after my breast cancer diagnosis in 2012, a friend sent me a link to The Spoon Theory. It’s an incredible story about how a woman with a chronic illness (lupus) explained her energy level to a dear friend. That story is now used by folks with all kinds of chronic conditions, including cancer.

In a nutshell, as she had lunch with her friend, Christine Miserandino explained the idea of energy using spoons from the tables around them. She grabbed about a dozen spoons and told her friend that each spoon represented a finite amount of energy. When she woke up in the morning, she had a certain number of spoons to use during that day. The number of spoons she had was affected by how she slept, her level of pain, and other factors.

As she went through her day, Christine explained, she was “spending” spoons. For instance, being able to go out to lunch with her friend meant she had to get up early, take a shower, drive to the lunch date …. And each of those additional tasks to her day used up her limited supply of spoons.

The story helped her friend understand that Christine had a limited amount of energy and had to be mindful of how she spent her “spoons.” Her friend cried when she learned that Christine had to deliberately and thoughtfully manage her “spoons” wisely every day. Healthy people who don’t fight chronic conditions typically have unlimited spoons to use each day—and don’t know how blessed they are.

That story was incredibly helpful to me throughout my treatment season. My husband is a logical thinker. Sharing the The Spoon Theory with him helped him understand me completely when I reported that I was “spoonless” or “out of spoons.” There was no challenging or disappointment—he simply “got it.”

Pink Sister, please share The Spoon Theory with your loved ones to help them understand what you’re going through—it will help!

Written with love by Jan James, Hope After Breast Cancer

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