The Reality Sets In…

***I am uneasy about posting this… it caused a huge uproar the first time when I posted it on Facebook.  I am hoping with the further explanation, people who come across this will realize that I am not angry.  Disappointed would have been the word at the time.  Now, it’s just a reference point.***

Cancer sucks, but it does not define me.  I will not let this disease change who I am.  Unfortunately, having this disease seems to have changed a lot of people around me and that quite possibly sucks more than cancer.  It’s funny, after the diagnosis, but before my surgery, everyone acted the same.  Maybe it’s because it wasn’t as noticeable.  Since the surgery, I guess people have freaked out.  I’m not dying.  Even if Plastic didn’t get it all, I’m not giving up without a fight, and those of people that really know me, know I can be a real bitch when the situation calls for it.

I refuse to be invisible.  If you can’t handle it, then say so.  I don’t need you to baby me, I don’t need you to take care of me, and I don’t need you to talk about the cancer or even ask about it.  I need you to be my friend.  Have a drink, send a text, have some fun.  I’m sorry that I’m not able to get out of the house and party it up.  It’s kind of difficult when you’re on crutches and not supposed to be doing anything but staying off your leg and keeping it elevated.

I try very hard to treat people the way I would like to be treated.  Hoping that one-day, when I need it, someone will return the favor.  I’m not trying to sound holier-than-thou or ungrateful to the people who have helped me out – particularly The Nurse, The Hubs, some of my school family, and some of my Facebook friends that have periodically checked in on me.  That help has been a pleasant, and welcome, surprise.  It’s the people that have disappeared from my life that I’m taking issue with.  People who I thought would always be there, but instead have come up with a plethora of excuses.

Lonely is not a word I would have associated with cancer before.  Sick, painful, depressing, those words fit.  So, on that note, here is a list I’ve started on ways to be a jerk when your friend has cancer.

1.  Don’t call

2.  Don’t text

3.  Don’t visit

4.  Tell your friend you’re coming for lunch

5.  After #4, don’t show up, text hours later with a rain date

6.  Don’t show up on either rain date

7.  After #6, don’t call or text either

8.  Say you’re going to check in on them later in the week and then don’t

9.  After #8, don’t call or text

10.  Offer to help them with a basic necessity then bail with a lame excuse

11.  After #10, say you’ll get back with them, then don’t

12.  Come to visit, while visiting come to tears over how bad your life is

13.  After #12, talk on your cell phone to other people, text other people & make plans to go out so you don’t have to stay at the invalid’s house too long

14.  After #13, spend as much time as possible in the invalid’s bathroom getting ready to go out with your other friends

15.  After #14, pick a fight with your husband because you think the invalid won’t figure out that you know what your doing is wrong but you’re doing it anyway

16.  Reply to your cancer stricken friend who needs a little cheering up that you can’t help cheer her up because you have the blahs

17.  Act like you’re too busy to hang out because of whatever reason

18.  After #17, go out with a mutual friend & both of you post comments & pics of how much fun you had together

19.  Shut down and disappear.  Don’t explain.

20.  Text like crazy, but disappear when you are asked to visit.

21.  Get mad/indignant when the cancer patient posts something like this on Facebook, tell yourself they’re not talking about you and continue to do #1-21…

So this list is a culmination of my frustration during my first week of recovery.  Week 1.  I knew I was going to be out for at least three weeks, but I did not know how I was going to be able to survive two more weeks.  I made a mistake and in the heat of frustration posted this list to Facebook.  Several of my more supportive friends understood.  Pink took serious issue with it – or the conversation it was based on that I had with her husband during the day – and posted a scathing response.  Granted, she didn’t mention my name, but it was so pointed and specifically mentioned cancer that I knew she was referring to me.  I’m not sure which hurt more, her behavior or response to me calling out her behavior.

Another response was from my brother-in-law.  It was interesting.  My brother-in-law is a nice kid, not terribly mature, but nice.  He believes he is wise far beyond his years, and beyond his brother who is 10 years older, and even beyond his own father, a very intelligent eye surgeon.  He spouts off that I should not think that my friends are being jerks but that they are simply scared of their own mortality, which my cancer has made them face.  At first, I rolled my eyes and thought he was an idiot.  I’ll admit it.  But in the days since, and in the aftermath, I have come to realize that he might be on to something.  But just because he might be on to the reasons why some of my closest friends have disappeared from my life, I can’t agree with him that it is ok to do so.

If your friend or family member is diagnosed with cancer, your first reaction may be to think of your own mortality and withdraw.  I can understand that.  It’s scary.  But, the cancer diagnosis isn’t about you.  It’s about your friend or family member that needs you.  I have always considered myself a very independent person.  I don’t rely on many people and when I do, it’s not for much.  But the first week of recovery was by far the loneliest of my life.  My closest friends didn’t call, or text, or offer to come by at first.  When I reached out to them, they offered and then reneged for various reasons, some valid, others not so much.

Let me tell you, I am reeling from the aftermath of my surgery.  I feel defective.  I worry that my husband won’t find me attractive anymore; that my first graders will be scared of me; and that strangers will point and stare.  When my friends failed to be there for me, it increased those feelings.  They were fine before I was defective, but now I was defective and they couldn’t be seen with me.  That may not have been the reality, but it is definitely how I felt.

Lesson:  No matter how uncomfortable you feel, if the person with cancer is someone you truly care about, you will be there.  I know that my friends would be mortified if they knew how they made me feel that first week.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Van
    Jan 30, 2011 @ 13:01:00

    Here’s another “Don’t Do” to a cancer patient. (This happened to me)

    Do not ever ask a cancer, “Has the doctor said when you are going to die?”


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