I had a few thoughts last night about The Boy Who Cried "Wolf!" - ways in which I hadn't considered the story before. Not surprising, since I don't usually engage in deep analysis of fairy tales unless required to by a teacher.
The story is told from the point of view of the boy. Makes sense, since the moral and warning are intended for people who would yell alarms too soon. But that means that the other dilemma in the story isn't addressed. After all, the villagers in the story probably don't want their shepherd eaten, even if he is an idiot from time to time, and they definitely don't want to lose their sheep - that's the whole point of putting a shepherd out there in the first place!
So what are the poor villagers to do when wolves are a real danger, but their only warning system gives them way too many false positives. How do you tell when the wolf really is among the sheep?
This is part of the dilemma we've been having with Dad W. He does have cancer; it's definitely life-threatening; it can cause a lot of symptoms, many of which aren't obviously cancer-related. But he's also a man who has trouble distinguishing annoying things one can and should push through from the medically dangerous. Up until just recently most of his symptoms have been the result of his poor condition and debilitation, rather than from the cancer. I've spent months muttering under my breath about the idiots down in the hospital in TN (the same ones who were treating Mom W. - isn't that reassuring?), who let him stay in bed for five days right after his biopsy. He lost huge amounts of mobility and muscle tone in those five days, and he never got them back. But instead of realizing how his lack of activity was contributing to his debilitation and pushing to get it back, Dad attributed it to the cancer, and his response to getting fatigued doing simple things was to rest more: which led to a downhill spiral of doing less and less as he lost the ability to do the things he had stopped doing because they were tiring.
So how do Rob and I as his caregivers figure out when his fatigue and immobility is self-induced, and we should push him to do more, and when it's really a sign of cancer progression, and we should drag him back to the oncologist?
This last couple of weeks, I think I'm seeing a cancer decline. Dad is deeply fatigued - he can spend 18-20 hours a day sleeping, not just sitting or lying down as he used to, but actually asleep. His skin tone is awful - a yellow/gray shade that makes him look like a walking corpse. He's running low-grade fevers more nights than not, sometimes with accompanying vomiting - and he doesn't wake up when he starts throwing up. He's nearly choked to death in the middle of the night twice in the last week. He's started hiccuping several hours out of every day.
Rob still thinks most of this is a continuation of his inactivity decline (except the fevers, but he thinks the failure to wake up, and inability to roll over when he's woken up are inactivity). He and Dad are still optimistic about what yesterday's PET scan will show. (Dad doesn't remember the night-time vomiting, and is having serious trouble tracking time, so he's not aware of just how much time he's spending asleep.) I'm not. I think we've finally hit the point, where if we hadn't tripped over Dad W's cancer back in the fall; if he had never had those five days of bed rest, and had maintained his mobility - we would be looking for and finding the cancer.
I think this time, the cry of "wolf!" is real. And with cancer in the liver, it's not usually long from a genuine cry of "wolf!" until there's not much left to do.