Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

07970 638857


Coping With Change You Don't Want

A personal viewpoint ...



As an ex-nurse, I am well aware of the major side effects of chemotherapy as I've witnessed it many times, but always with the knowledge that I could walk away from it at the end of my shift. When it's your own life it feels totally different ...

If you're facing difficult changes, maybe my musings will give you food for thought!

If you're facing difficult changes, maybe my musings will give you food for thought!

copyright: numismarty / 123rf stock photo

It's nearly time for my husband Harold to undergo cancer treatment and we both know he will be increasingly unwell and will have many other side effects over the next nine months whilst the course of treatment lasts.

For those of you who are lucky enough to live in blissful ignorance of these things, chemotherapy affects the immune system and means that the biggest risk is that of serious infection.

So last week, the MacMillan Unit at Milton Keynes Hospital gave us a long list of things Harold can't do or eat, and needs to proceed with caution to reduce the risk of picking up an infection. I will confess that my first emotional reaction on seeing the list was one of selfish resentment and resistance.

"Why the hell should I have to disrupt my life in this way?"

What I hadn't really thought about before was how much and for how long the chemotherapy regime was going to impact on all our lives; my husband, myself and our son.

What has suddenly struck me is these changes affect the small comfortable life habits we have developed in the 21 plus years we have lived together. It is all those little habits and rituals which ground us in our daily life and define how we manage our relationship.

Now someone else, for a reason completely out of my control, is telling us we can't do it that way anymore. We have to have new habits.

Now I'm not a quitter, and I deeply care about what my husband is going through and have a strong desire to do whatever I can to help him go through this. I also need to support my son and look after me at the same time.

"Phew! How am I going to do all this when the earth is shifting beneath my feet?"

Well, I'll pull on my inner resources. My work is all about helping people change so I'll use the principles that I use with others who are facing change and resisting it.

The first thing I demonstrate when talking to work teams about change is we all change all the time. I am not doing the same things or even thinking the same thoughts as I did before I met my husband. The addition of my son added further changes and that has been on-going for all of us as he has grown up.

We all love change when we have chosen it and can visualise that the outcome will be better (even when it is all wrapped up in the fluffy pink cloud of being in love). Well, this change was imposed on me and one way or another, my private life is going to change.

"What is within my control is choosing how I respond to the given elements!"

What is important to me is to maintain some stability and constancy and to achieve the best outcome for us as a family. In the short term, helping to reduce Harold's risk of infection is the desired outcome, managing the bad days (and weeks) and using the whole experience to strengthen our relationship as a family.

The second principle I apply to others is "people own what they helped to create". Whilst the 'what' is non-negotiable, the 'how' to change it can take many forms.

Suddenly I looked at the hospital list of don'ts with new eyes. How about turning this into a list of what we will do rather than what we won't do? This will have other benefits too such as the focus on food which will lead to trying new recipes to make it interesting. I may even open all those foodie books I have in the kitchen cupboard.

The need to stay away from crowded places means we will stay in more. This means we will spend more time actually talking to each other. This has already been a side benefit of Harold's illness. We talk more about deeper things that really matter to us than we have for years. And no more taking each other for granted either! I've already learnt a lot more about the man I married.

The third principle is to expect hiccups as it will not go smoothly all the time and we can never cover all the angles.

So I will keep learning and be open to detours whilst keeping the end in mind. Sometimes, the side roads reveal the most interesting things I would never see otherwise.

For instance, something very profound for me, I've learnt is that I am surrounded by wonderful people who are there to support me and, equally important, I've learnt to let them.

So what's changed so far? Well, writing this blog post and planning how to go forward means I have changed my emotional response to this imposition. I started with resentment and resistance and a desire to run away. Now I feel positive and prepared to face what is coming over the next few months.

"After that? Well, we'll face that
when we get there!"

No tips this week. Just a hope that if you're facing difficult changes, maybe my musings will give you food for thought. It's not the road you wanted to travel, but you can certainly get some positive benefits from it.

Until next time ...


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07970 638857