Updated: Jun 22, 2021
Cancer is loss. Loss of self, of confidence, of stability, and even of relationships. It is difficult to create a space for vulnerability, and it is a heavy decision to allow love in the midst of uncertainty when one of the losses you face is yourself. Tammey and Griff reflect on their relationship, starting out as friends and transitioning to love. They discuss the pain, the fear, the frustrations, the loss and the gains in this very real and very heartfelt episode.
Topics in this Episode:
A guide through hardship
For you: I will fight!
The skills of suffering
Fear of the unknown vs. the power of Spiritual certainty
Afraid to hope?
The prize of privation
A vantage point of helplessness
Know thyself and thy partner!
A Thousand little things
Most wounds are hidden
Requirements for success
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Tammey Grable-Woodford: Hello and welcome to your killer life. We are so excited to have you join us on this next episode. I am one of your hosts today, Tammey Grable-Woodford.
Griff Woodford: I am Griff Woodford.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: And we are excited to be talking with you today about the fear of love and bonding and commitment in the midst of loss and trauma. And specifically, of course, with breast cancer. On episode eight, we talked about sex and intimacy and oh, sort of recovering those aspects of, of life.
We mentioned, but we didn't really dig into the fact that I really did have a hard time with bonding. And you had sort of decided to step in, which was amazing. And, and with, for those that didn't listen to that episode. My ex-husband had asked for a divorce a couple of weeks before my diagnosis. He, uh, pretty much I had let him know that I thought I had breast cancer and had made the doctor appointment and he didn't make it to the starting line on that.
And then a few months, and we were already friends. And for some reason you decided to step up and step in, and maybe we'll talk a little bit about that too, but I also, and that's sort of the reason for, for this episode, I was very guarded and not wanting to love or invite intimacy, that type of intimacy into my life.
Griff Woodford: I would add to that from, from my perspective, uh, beginning the relationship, which at first was of course friendship. And I, I don't really want to say like a, um, a guidance type relationship, but there's, you know, the deep friendship and then realizing that you are, you are now in crisis and you're alone.
My... not the only reason, but I will say one of the, uh, more important reasons. And one of the reasons that allowed me to. I guess be able to understand some of the difficulties for you is because I have had a life that is, consistent in hardship, certainly up until we met and knowing what it does take to get out of that, to recover from it and still be able to, um, pursue a, a healthy, happy life.
A guide through hardship
You know, I, I know and knew how to navigate suffering. It's a skill, quite frankly, it's, it's a trained in practice skill, uh, which most people really aren't aware of. Whether out of necessity or, or refusal. So a large portion of me going into that role is knowing that you needed help and knowing that of anyone else I knew, I would be the best fit for that.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: So one of the things that we've not talked about yet on the podcast is that you also have experienced loss through cancer.
Griff Woodford: Yes.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: And you have seen what that looks like as a person goes from being diagnosed to, to saying goodbye.
Griff Woodford: Yes.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: And I know for me, part of why I didn't want to bond with anyone is because I didn't want to allow someone to love me.
Griff Woodford: And then lose that I haven't taken. Yes. Yeah. You know, and that's to anyone listening and obviously to you, that is a very natural response. I mean, I've, I can think of a few times and instances in my own life where I refused attachment based on what I was doing, the danger in, what I was doing, whether it's a career occupation, or just, just bad choices.
But, uh, no. And so I, I certainly. Recognize that and did what I could to address it, of course. But again, having, having seen the process before with, with, um, very close, loved ones who, who were killed by the disease or the treatment of the disease, just knowing that because what it looked like you were going to be facing that you couldn't do it alone.
And if I... needed to even just be a stepping stone for you to recover. Then that was, uh, I was happy with that. In fact, in the beginning, that was really kind of the, the outlook on the relationship is, you know, it doesn't matter if this goes into something romantic or it goes into a marriage. That's not why I'm here it's that I, I know I can fill a very specific role for you because you are in dire need of it.
And. You know that, uh, that allowed me to persevere when things were really hard.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: So I'm still all of these years later amazed that with the very personal and close, loved ones that you have lost and going through that, that you, you did decide that, "Hey, I could do this again, and I can risk this, this part of me." And I did not make it easy on you.
Griff Woodford: No, not at first.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: I know for me, there was not just the fear of hurting you. And the, the pain and loss on your end. I mean, to me, that felt unjust and unfair. And so it wasn't something that I wanted to do to someone. And I think part of that is because I had felt so abandoned. And so, you know, I di.. I did not want to put that on someone else.
I didn't want to open that door for someone else. And then my family, right? Like seeing their reaction and their pain to my diagnosis and the fear of loss and, and how they were dealing with it. I just really could not think of anything more painful to do to someone than to allow it at that moment. And so I really did emotionally block love and...
I know we're not going to talk about drugs on this episode. And we are going to talk about that on a future episode, that helped me in some ways to continue to be numb, you know, postoperatively with narcotics and...
Griff Woodford: Sure, yeah.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: All of the stuff that was tossed at me, which we dubbed the Elvis Presley repair kit. So, um, so that helped me to maintain that distance, but that really was such a hard thing for me.
And then on top of that, I was already experiencing so much loss in my life. Loss of career, loss of future...
Griff Woodford: ...20 year marriage. Yeah.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Right!
Griff Woodford: So all of the above, but pretty much every... discernible aspect of your life, something was being actively taken from you or had already been taken.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Yes. And that trauma, I will say it continues even now, you know, there, there are things that. I don't want to say self-sabotage, but it might come across that way, like getting fit again, because you've been with me throughout all this, like I would just get momentum back and then I would get hit with another surgery or something like that.
So it was just constantly this reclamation and loss and reclamation and loss and reclamation and loss. And I was just, yeah.
Griff Woodford: Yes. Yeah. I'd you the question of, if you can recall, what was the defining moment where that wall dropped, where you realized for whatever reason that this was, this was worth the investment and what were the catalysts to that?
For you: I will fight
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Was always worth the investment. It was whether or not it was worth the risk and that your persistence, I think, more than anything. And then you opening up and letting me know. I think once I understood your background with your grandmother and with your dad, your stepdad, that, that I understood. And also getting to know you better, knowing you as a friend is one thing.
Being abandoned like that at the beginning of my diagnosis really damaged my ability to trust that anyone would be there...
Griff Woodford: Oh, sure... yeah...
Tammey Grable-Woodford: ...and you know, you and I had conversations, you know, no joke. Like I'll just Uber back from the, O.R. tomorrow it's, it's fine. I'll figure it out on my own. Right. But. You just kept showing me that I could depend on you.
And you just kept showing me that you were up for the challenge and willing to accept that loss. But probably what really changed it is the moment that I realized that you, you were on my side. And you were true to your word and that you mentally could handle it.
And so we, we went through a lot of things. I mean, it was probably, I don't know if you remember, but it was probably a good year of me being like, okay, kid, whatever. Right? Like,
Griff Woodford: Yeah. Yeah. That's maybe a little bit less, but yeah, within that, certainly within that frame. Yeah.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Yeah. So it really was just sort of this realization of, of your, your tenacity, that you're just sticking with it. And, at some point, I finally felt safe and it was that safety that, which was so scary to be vulnerable enough to allow the feeling of safety. I cannot stress that.
Griff Woodford: Yeah, I think that there are a lot of really important takeaway. Ways from both side of this conversation for our listeners, particularly ones who are going through, you know, a long-term or chronic diseases, cancer, the list goes on and all the effects that coincide with that of, um, particularly on the, well, not particularly, but within both parties is understanding that this is, these are genuine hurdles that every person will face.
And to think that, that it doesn't apply or that it's not applicable, or that there aren't skills that are required in order to navigate this successfully is that is frankly self-sabotaging whether through naivety or just unwillingness to, to believe the, uh, the actual reality. So you don't transpose that to others, particularly in the beginning of a, a long-term disease.
And I mean, you know, in our case, we're a little bit different as it wasn't just the beginning of a long-term disease. It was the beginning of a romantic relationship, you know? So it was this... you know kind of exponentially more difficult scenario. I mean, it's a, I won't say typically, but very often, or I suppose the most relatable is people have been together for three, five, six, eight, 12 years.
You know? I mean, we think about like average age of, uh, long-term illness, diagnosis, you know, I mean that typically indicative of someone or a couple who's been together for a little while. So there's, there's already this kind of assumed safety from both people, you know, you've been around each other enough to know that you can be relied on even if only for, you know, for certain things.
That begins to change when that disease does... well, I guess the process is also the disease, now begin to take the center stage of daily life. Because it's, it's not what that relationship is based on. It's not what that relationship is used to. So understanding the individual realities for both people, um, the, uh, the victim of the disease, the... well that, that fear and that unwillingness to put someone else through that, through the potential of loss.
That's a real thing. That's a very human thing. It's, it's, um, probably call that a, a unilateral feeling for people, especially for those who really care about each other. You know? I mean, I, I love you. I don't want to cause you harm. So go away. You know, you don't want to be here for this where in reality, yeah, we do. Yes. We do want to be here for this and it's not your decision, ultimately. To say I can or cannot love you and support you through this,
Tammey Grable-Woodford: Oh, my goodness. So you saying just that actually brings tears to my eyes because so many times you would say to me,
Griff Woodford: ...not your choice.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: ...it's not your choice. You don't get to tell me who to love you. You don't get to tell me.
Griff Woodford: Right.
Tammey Grable-Woodford: And that was, that was a big part of it because wanting to put up that wall for both of us was definitely something... you know... that I, that I was desperately trying to do.
And you, you weren't having it.
Griff Woodford: No. Nope.