Multiple times this week I’ve received the” but you didn’t have Chemo.” Instantly categorizing my cancer, diminishing the impact it’s had on my life. Inevitably this response comes from those who have not experienced this disease.
I realize there is no intent to offend. So with most, I never say a thing. It is only those that are the closest to me, that I know love me deeply, that I will correct. Let me just say to everyone Please, Please don’t do this.
No derivation of these words has ever crossed the lips of friends who’ve had cancer including those who endured the horrors of chemo. Not ever. They never see me as having less a scare, less a fight, less knowledge, less……
In my anger I wonder do I deserve half a pink ribbon, polka dot ribbon perhaps. Where does this sliding scale go? Do you slot me by Stage? Stage one you get one mark, stage two gets two and so on, two more stripes for radiation and yet another two for chemo.
Much like an aversion to the glorious slogan FUCK CANCER has never arrived from anyone either touched directly or brushed closely by cancer. Anyone who has met this beast, felt its breath upon their heart, would gladly allow the phrase without reproach.
Normally I wouldn’t even write this, wouldn’t publish it. But I’ve spent the past few weeks cursing a God I can’t say I even believe in. Whatever my version of the Big Guy, the Universe, a divine force, so damned unjust.
I’m a year and half out from my CCRCC diagnosis and kidney removal. It’s been two years since my Dad was diagnosed with Leukemia. Everyday my gratitude increasing that his platelets are holding steady. And then two weeks ago my mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Lymphoma. She begins Chemo next week.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
I know there are families that have genetic predispositions to cancer, families where most of the family members have passed from the disease. One of my dearest, my personal rock, is part of such a clan- she and her brother the only living family members from two generations. Not to mention both she and her husband have had cancer. Their eldest son’s response after his father’s diagnosis, “Well I’m completely fucked!”
I understand why my little sister is terrified. How she can fear for what her future looks like. Though based on pure statistics her odds must have increased for the better. Right?!!
What I don’t know is how many people have been in the midst of their diagnosis, fight, and dreaded “other shoe” drop concurrently with both their parents? Is this common? Extremely rare? Totally and completely utterly fucked up!! Hell Yes!
My mom’s diagnosis hit me hard, washing over me with the same numbness my own diagnosis did. I became flooded again. I immediately called my social worker, “I need an appointment”. “Grief overload” she called it.
I wanted to join my Dad in control mode, battle ready, pretending to be hardened to the experience, all the well terrified. Naturally I gave him a lecture about needing to ask for help. That being a caregiver is brutal on even the strongest. And of course this is not him. The last thing I could fathom was his platelets dropping from stress and his ending up next to mom in the infusion room.
Naturally, not heeding my own advice I quickly arrived at overload and got sick. Stress has always been the archenemy of my immune system.
Some days I am grasping for the gallows humor that has been my steed. While in the hospital the nurses nearly called in a psych eval obviously having less an appreciation for my coping mechanism. You have to find the moments to laugh. And please allow us our dark humor. It is not the enemy of optimism. Sometimes it is optimism’s life raft.