Month: May 2012

Good Intentions

I finally had a little time away from doctor appointments and went to my favorite store, Target. The greatest store ever!!! Anyway, I was happily shopping when I sort of noticed a woman following me around the store. It took some time, but she finally did approach me. I was wearing my compression sleeve and glove, as I always do, and she pointed it out and asked if I had cancer. I said yes, and she went on to say she’d also had breast cancer, stage one, and she’d had to wear a sleeve as well.

Then she told me she no longer has to wear one and it will get better for me, too. Her intentions were good. She told me her daughter also had cancer and her niece had stage 4 breast cancer. I told her I also had stage 4 breast cancer. She gave me a hug and we spoke for a while, as I said I was in a good mood. Shopping does that for me!!

So I let my guard down and asked “the question”: “How’s your niece doing?” She just gave me this horrified look. She knew what she had done. She’s gone, she said. Tears started rolling down my face. Crying … in Target, my favorite store. Why did I ask that question??? Deep down I knew the answer, but I had to, was compelled to, ask.

Why is it when people find out you have cancer they have to share every cancer story they know with you?!?! My sister had cancer, my brother had cancer, my best friend, my mom, on and on and on. I left Target and went straight home so exhausted from tears that I slept the afternoon away. I’d been having a good day until I met a well-intentioned “cancer sharer,” as I call people like her. And just like that, I was no longer having a good day.

Everyone has a different way of sharing. Some people talk, some people write, some people need time and space. I’m writing now, but it’s taken me two years to get here. I didn’t even tell my family or friends about my blog until a couple of weeks ago. When I’m out and about, I don’t want to hear anybody’s sad stories of dying from cancer!!! However, I may be interested in hearing about SURVIVING. Stories of hope, strength and encouragement should be shared, but, even then, only if the person you are talking with wants to hear them.

I recently heard that a friend of mine is ill. I want to help her. I want to offer her advice, to take some of the burden off of her. But is that in her best interest … or mine? I’m torn because I don’t think we should have to go through this all alone. We’re strong women with children and active lives and we are fighting cancer … and that means something! On the other hand, I sure don’t want to become an unwelcome “sharer.”

So how do we know if they want to be heard? I suppose we need to ask before we speak. We women have got to stick together and encourage positive thoughts instead of focusing on horror stories. Who benefits from depressing discussions of illness?

I will say one good thing did come from this experience: The woman I met in Target did think I was in my early 30s. As a woman in her mid-40s who is being pumped full of cell-killing drugs, I have to say I was very pleased with myself. So that is what I will remember when I go back to Target. Because no one is going to ruin my favorite shopping store with negative vibes.

Cancer’s Made Me Smarter … In a Good Way

I think cancer has made me smarter. If that’s possible? My mom and I were talking today about nothing particularly special and she mentioned that she thinks I’ve changed. Not in the “oh-my, I’ve-found-God” kind of way, but in subtle ways. I think she’s right, and I like it.

It didn’t start right away. It’s been a slow transition for me. I’m just not so uptight about certain things. Examining it now, I think I feel calmer. So strange. A doctor basically tells me I’m gonna die, and somehow I’m calmer.

I also think that many of my family members have changed as well. My mom and I, who have always had a good relationship, now have a better one. I think we trust each other more. She has been by my side every step of the way. Every step. Every doctor appointment. Slept in the hospital with me. Moved halfway across the country with me for treatment for two months. And maybe it’s because we are with each other so much or maybe because we cut to the chase more. I’m not sure when it happened, but we don’t irritate each other anymore (like so many mothers and daughters do). We’ve been totally together in this fight for my life. And we’ve come to realize that no other fights matter. We’ve become so comfortable with each other, and we look at each other with profound deepened respect. She respects me for my determination, and I respect her for her unwavering support. Cancer has changed us both.

My father, brother and sister have all slowly grown different as well. I think what they all have in common is that they are more open with me. Somehow more approachable. At the beginning, we were all so scared but as time goes on we are still scared but we have insight. We have come together, we make more time for each other. It’s so nice. I think maybe cancer has made us nicer. Wow, how weird is that. Just when you think you should be angry, you’re not. Funny how that works.

I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore, and that feels good. Don’t get me wrong, I still worry. But I worry about the right things. Not worrying about the small things is such a relief.

I like me better now.