Before we get into the weeds, it occurs to me that I don’t usually post updates on my health status like most other cancer bloggers do.
It feels a little like boasting to announce “Look at me! I’m NED!” (See Introvert below.) As if something I did is the reason for my good fortune. Especially when there are people who aren’t doing so well. When I read so-and-so’s blog about how superb her care is (best oncologist in the country) and what a fighter she is and how her oncologist is simply amazed at her progress (never seen anything like it), I always think about the person who might be reading who isn’t doing so well and who doesn’t have access to superb care, but who is desperately looking for answers or comfort. I don’t know. Just me, I guess.
I read a lot of cancer blogs. Once I decide I like the blog and will keep reading — trust me, there have been some that don’t make it past the first sentence — I always look for a timeline of the author’s cancer. And, naturally, I compare it to my experience. I don’t know if other people with cancer do this. Probably. We’re all looking for answers. For comfort.
Anyway, I’ve opened my big mouth so I guess I have to report that my last scans in March, 18 months out from treatment, showed continued NED (no evidence of disease). According to my oncologist, the median survival for my kind of cancer with treatment is 15 months. So, I’m lucky. I’m still here. And I’m doing fine. This moment, this hour, this day.
Now, let’s carry on with some of my curmudgeonly insight…
One of the features of being an introvert is that you’re not inclined to share every little thing that happens in your life — or even every big thing that happens in your life.
As a result, relatively few people who know me outside of this blog or who know me but don’t know about the blog are aware I have cancer. The few times I told people was when I was bald to answer questioning looks at my head, or on a need-to-know basis.
By so few people knowing I have lung cancer, I’ve been able to avoid the two utterances That Might Make Me Hit Somebody One of These Days:
1. “Did you smoke?”
2. various forms of the Positive Attitude TM admonition, which, IMO, is quickly gaining steam as the most annoying of the two utterances and may dictate greater injury.
I’ve never had anyone ask me the first to my face — but you know they’re thinking it — which I can attribute to knowing people with common sense and good manners. Or it could be that I’m just not around that many people and it’s the law of averages.
The second one I have though. It came from an acquaintance scolding, “Well, I can see someone needs an attitude adjustment!” after I mentioned that the prognosis for someone with lung cancer was grim. If she hadn’t been on the other end of a phone line, I might have punched her.
To be realistic about your cancer is not the antithesis of being positive. You can be positive and realistic at the same time.
See, here’s the thing. Cancer makes people afraid. Afraid of getting it, afraid of the grief, afraid of their own mortality. So they throw up that screen to warn you that they’re afraid by deflecting their fear back onto you either by blaming (“Did you smoke?”) or by meaningless counsel (You’ll beat this! Just be positive!).
Which brings me to the point of this post: This article about things not to say to someone with cancer and some recommendations for things you can do.
I’ve never seriously wished cancer on anyone. But this guy might make me reconsider. “Mo.” Must be short for Moron.