31 January 2022
I heard someone a while back discussing their journey through cancer treatment. One thing they said stuck with me, and it was that “people see the disease, not the person”.
It’s not just cancer that has this effect – a person with a disability of any sort, a weight issue, an addiction, tattoos or even skin colour – strangers take one glance and see what they assume they are looking at, rather than seeing the person.
During this past year, we attended the funeral of a family friend. He had travelled with a debilitating and ultimately fatal degenerative condition that had him immobilised and with limited speech for many years.
Now – I’m not a loony (honest!), but generally speaking I really like funerals. It’s a wonderful celebration of a persons’ life. No matter how long someone has been on this earth, they have made a huge impact on the lives of others, and this is articulated or demonstrated brilliantly at their funeral.
At the funeral of the man I’m talking about, you’d be forgiven for thinking they had the wrong photos displayed. The wasted body of a man in the wheelchair could not be the vibrant personality, the man with an unfailing zest for life, the grateful and loving man that all his friends and loved ones were talking about.
But of course, they were. The abilities, physical, verbal or mental, are not the totality of a human being.
People undergoing life threatening illnesses, or dealing with life altering traumas, have enough to deal with without the rest of us assuming we know them and their lives.
What do you see when you see someone who has lost their hair to chemo? Lost their ability to walk and to speak following an accident? Severely disabled?
Do we look?
Or do we see?