People react to news in different ways and boy the things they say are bizarre. Throughout this past year, people have reacted to my news in various ways. I sometimes wish I could record or videotape some of the things people have said to me. They range from happy to sad, shocking to serious, and everything else you can imagine.
Some of my favorite reactions are from children who are all under the age of seven. When I lost all my hair and went to visit one of my younger friends, she took one look at me and said, “I love your new hair cut!” After several more visits, she told me how shiny my head looked. When my hair came back curly, she then told me how it looked like her violin teacher’s hair. Another reaction I got was from a little boy recently at a wedding. I was sitting at my table talking with him and all of a sudden he pointed to my chest and proclaimed, “Your soul is cancer.” Everyone at the table just stopped and starred at me and I said, “You’re absolutely right - my soul does have cancer.” It was his way of letting me know that he knew what’s up.
When I was in physical therapy after my knee surgery and throughout radiation, I got some of the best reactions from other patients. I usually wore shorts at each visit so everyone could clearly see my scar. One time as I was checking in someone saw my scar and said, “That’s one impressive scar. What happened to you?” I nicely told them I just had a cancerous tumor removed from behind my knee and they just stared at the floor. Another person asked me if I had a knee replacement or if I tore my ACL. I don’t know a lot about knee surgeries, but I am pretty sure they work on your knee in the front and not the back.
Recently I was standing in the receiving line at my grandmother’s viewing when a woman started poking around asking questions about my life. She first started with what is your name then asked where I lived. I nicely introduced myself then explained that I was currently living at home. Then she looked at me and asked the dreaded question, “What exactly do you do? Do you have a job?” It was one of the few times that I wanted to say, “Are you seriously asking me this question right now?” I was starting to get use to the hello, sorry about your loss, and then the head nod with a frown. This threw me off so much that I just stared at her. It was one of the few times in my life when I didn’t know what to say back. I nicely said I had some health issues and quickly passed her along to my sister. Looking back, I should have said, “I’m fighting cancer full time and if you wouldn’t mind would you please move along because your sucking precious oxygen out of the air I need for my sarcoma filled lungs” then I would have flashed a smile. Thank God I was dumbfounded.
The morning of my lung biopsy this past May was yet another opportunity to make everyone around me feel awkward. When they called me back to the pre-surgery area I had already gone to the bathroom. Apparently you must wait until you get back there to go. In my situation when I have to go to the bathroom I have to go immediately. There was no way was I holding it in until I was instructed. After being told I should have waited, the woman commented on my hair. She was saying how curly and beautiful it looked. Then, she asked me how I got it that way. I told her that it was chemically engineered from chemotherapy. What followed was pure silence until another nurse came in to start my IV. I guess that wasn’t the answer she was looking for.
There are a couple other ones like when I was told, “At least no one else has it.” It’s not something you can catch like a cold, people. Another was when everyone kept telling my mom, “She’s young and she’ll get over it.” Once again this isn’t one of those things you can just get over. My other personal favorite is when I would tell people and they would say, “Well you know my (insert name here) had cancer and is doing great now.” Another popular one was when people would tell me about their sister’s friend’s cousin who was twice removed and is now part of the family stories. It was as if by telling them about my cancer story they had to come up with six degrees of separation to link my story to someone they know. I don’t mind hearing about other people’s cancer stories, but it’s when you get into the far fetched ones that it gets ridiculous.
There were certain people that I told who would cry - which is perfectly normal. I told a friend over the phone the day I found out and she started crying. She forgot to mention that she was driving when I was talking to her. There is nothing worse than hearing your friend has cancer while driving somewhere. Whenever I call her now, I always ask if she is driving or not. There was someone who started hysterically crying to the point where they couldn’t move. I quickly started comforting her and then thought, “Wait, hold on, did you just tell me bad news or are those still your cancer tears?” I quickly learned that if a person cried when you told them your cancer news to just hug them or shrug your shoulders.
I don’t generally sugar coat anything so when I started telling people my news they were more shocked at how I was telling it to them. I shared my news like I would share anything else. I mean saying I have cancer is a lot more shocking then telling people I was headed to the barn to see my horse Joe. I have no plans on changing how I tell information. It just is what it is.