Andrew Cuomo is my new unlikely hero; unlikely, since my heroes are usually spiritual leaders like the Buddha and the Dalai Lama.
Sandra Lee, Cuomo’s partner, was diagnosed with breast cancer and chose to have a double mastectomy. Since her diagnosis, Mr. Cuomo has been loving and supportive to the point that he stopped working to tend to her needs during this crucial time.
Oftentimes, a diagnosis of cancer within a family results in the opposite response from family members: deflection and denial. Many run away, preferring to avoid dealing with the anxiety they feel about the diagnosis and the future. This leads to the patient being more alone and more depressed than they may already be.
This reaction is a classic narcissistic response to a very stressful situation. It can include drinking, drug use, aversion, and self-delusion. Many of us, including myself, can understand this response. However, Governor Cuomo publicly set an example for all of us: to set aside our own needs to take care of a loved one.
Research demonstrates that a patient’s likelihood of recovery is much greater when family and/or friends step up to provide unconditional love and support. Choosing to make another’s needs your focus helps to create a cohesive and resilient support system. Mr. Cuomo knows what it’s like to be a member of a strong family who takes responsibility for one another.
Clearly, when a loved one gets sick, it’s also scary. The key is to confront the fear with mindfulness and face it with self-awareness. Being mindful of the fear means doing what it takes to take care of yourself first, so that you can then provide adequate support to the person in need. Developing self-awareness is the foundation to be resilient enough to handle life’s stresses.
In times of a health crisis, relationships often count more than ever. Compassionate relationships lead to healthy families. Kudos, Mr. Cuomo. Thanks for being a public role model.