More Than Meets the Eye

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As she walked to her vehicle, a younger man came up beside her. Just as he was about to get into his truck, she commented, “Our trucks sure look dirty.”

He looked at her, and without missing a beat replied in a snarky tone, “Mine’s a work truck. At least I have a reason.”

This story was told by one of the people who attend our church’s bimonthly support group for those living with chronic and life-altering illness. The others in the room nodded their heads. They understood.

What the young man saw in my friend was a lazy woman who couldn’t be bothered to wash her car. If he’d taken just a moment to look a bit deeper, though, he would have discovered that her reason is called “terminal cancer.”

Like many others living with chronic and life-altering disease, this woman doesn’t look sick. One person in our group recently commented, “People sometimes glare at me when I park in a handicapped parking spot.” It’s not uncommon to hear people living with illness express feelings of guilt for taking spots that other, “sicker” people might need.

We laughed recently when one terminally ill person told a story of using one of the scooters provided at Costco. They had to endure glares and a few comments that they should “leave the transportation for people who really need it.” She too is living with terminal cancer.

I recall hearing Andrew Neufeld of Niverville Physio once say that there are over 200 people in Niverville living with chronic illness. Many of these folks don’t look sick, but they could use our help. We just need to slow down long enough to consider that there might be more to a person’s reality than what we can see.

One woman living with Parkinson’s recently commented to me how awkward she feels when holding up a line in a store. She looks healthy, but her disease has stolen her fine motor skills. The once simple task of digging change out of her purse has become a slow, tedious, sometimes embarrassing chore.

As we provide support for one another in our bimonthly meeting, we often reflect on those times when we too have misunderstood others. It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge that we’ve often looked at others and come to incorrect conclusions. It’s easy to lay on the horn behind a slow, obviously inconsiderate driver, or to sigh deeply when waiting in line while someone tries to operate hands that no longer answer the brain’s commands.

We think we see the truth, but what we’re seeing is only part of the story.

I wonder what would happen if we would start to consider that there might be more to a person than meets the eye. Once we open the door to these possibilities, we begin to feel compassion instead of judgement. We might even start treating people with kindness and empathy instead of feeling justified in our hostility.     

One of the main problems expressed by those living with chronic illness is loneliness. To combat this, our support group meets at 85 Second Street South.

One woman living with terminal cancer recently said, “I’ve appreciated these biweekly meetings and the support. It really allows me to feel less isolated and extend my community.” 

Another member wrote, “I have terminal cancer. The doctors gave me one year to live. That was two and half years ago! Meeting and talking with others living with similar adversity and seeing the progress in their lives is encouraging.”

As we gather to support one another, we find ways to see the positive in dark circumstances. We encourage one another, laugh together, visit one another in hospital, and find a way to keep people from feeling isolated and alone.

If you’re living with life-altering or chronic disease, we’d love to have you join us. Come find friends who understand and who will share this journey with you.

For more information

Contact Chris Marchand or Lori Wolfe at 204-388-4645

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