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April 17, 2011

Pardon me?

Friday I was chatting with a friend, a very nice lady who hires Cait to babysit and thus, gives her spending money.  We *heart* her.  Her kids love Cait, Cait gets out and makes $$ and we are all very happy.  She mentioned that she heard I was going to undergo "treatments" soon.  I then mentioned I had already started and was nearly (as of Monday!) halfway finished.

"Oh!  Really?  How are you feeling?" she asked.

"Well, fine, I guess," I replied, not sure what else to say.  I mean, quite honestly, I am fine.  My skin is holding up (so far), I'm not bloody exhausted (yet), still doing the Couch to 5 K and am making it to appointments without the need for a mocha or xanax.

Then she asked very innocently,  "So, are you going to lose your hair soon?" 

Um, how does one answer that?  The question had been posed so casually, as though she was asking if I took cream with my coffee or did I notice that it was supposed to rain today.  

I looked at her, replied that it was 'only' radiation (there's nothing 'only' about anything blip-related, but...).  Not wanting to delve deeper into a topic I loathe, I left well enough alone and didn't mention body parts. After trying and failing to discuss more important issues, we said our good-byes.  

I walked home and just wondered...when people look at me, do they see me or do they just see a disease, symptoms or side effects that I don't have?  Are people watching and waiting for me to somehow fall apart one day? I had just recently finally gotten to the point where I didn't feel as though things were abnormal on a daily basis.  Oddly enough, doing the radiation and having no side effects thus far has helped me get there.  I know it was best to be open and honest about the situation...but I really hope I haven't permanently tatooed a red C on my forehead. 



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You are so much more than a scarlet C. I know that your friends see you as honest, brave, strong, amazing (should I get out the thesaurus...). That is what we see when we look at you.

I think it more likely people simply do not know what to do or say. I went through the care of and loss of my elderly father to terminal lung cancer. I think I mentioned before that he was never one to get to a Dr. until he had bones sticking out or blood gushing. His ignoring a severe persistent cough did him no good. Yet, I still would likely be awkward talking with you about your treatments because I haven't had the experience. What is appropriate? What is too forward? What is 'too little'? Should I ask what I'm curious about and offend you, or not ask and make you think I don't care??? Should I even mention my family experience? It's not the same thing as what you're going through, but it's the only reference point I have?!? It's tough...

I had always had an ignorant yet fearful grasp of radiation treatments before my dad's cancer. I am still a bit confused about why chemo is used, or not used, for certain things, and why radiation is used for other things, or not, and the pros and cons to each when it comes to the different uses. I am not a doctor and am not educated in this field! What I did learn though is that these treatments affect everyone differently, and despite any negative effects, they can help. My dad had, unfortunately, ignored his symptoms until it was far too late. They tried chemo, but it didn't have much hope and they stopped it because it made him sick. When the doctor suggested radiation... all those fears and doubts were there, but my dad trusted his doctor, and so did I. The radiation treatments could not possibly save my dad, but they instantly and dramatically(!) cut the pain. He was able to get up, around, and care for himself until the day he passed away. I couldn't tell you the harm vs. benefit of his treatments, or the pros and cons the doctor weighed before his suggesting them, but I can say that radiation treatments gave my dad back his dignity, so they were moved off the 'bogey monster' list in my head.

I don't know how your treatments are working for you... your details and care plan are your business :) ... I probably would have to spend a good number of hours on google to understand anyway... but after my experience with my dad's treatments, my attitude towards the possible positive benefits of radiation is much more reasonable. I have managed to 'file it' mentally with other medical and surgical procedures, many of which have their own positives and negatives, pros and cons, which is where it should be. That's 'in general' of course, not specific... specifics change.

I'm not saying this would make me less likely to say something awkward to you about your treatments :) ... but then again, I'd likely be awkward asking someone how their gall bladder/hysterectomy/knee replacement/whatever treatments were going too. You're not wearing a scarlet C, but people who know you have to attend to the cancer that you are dealing with too... somehow.. stumbling, tripping you up and tripping over themselves...

I also think she might have been trying to communicate that if you did have a noticeable side effect like that, that she would be okay with it.

Glad to hear you define your life (even life right now) as being more than just disease and treatments. :)

Glad to see you are not letting the C define who you are!

I too think that the lady was trying to show empathy and it didn't work. We never know if what we say is the right thing to say in a situation like that. We want to show we care, we want to be encouraging, we don't want to pry or be insensitive, yet we don't know everything there is to know about cancer and cancer treatments. I am very much like Connie. I have not (and if I am lucky, I never will) had cancer myself. I know several people that have had it but my dad is the closest one. Most of what I know about cancer I learned by being with him when he had his bouts of cancer. I know it's not the same as what you have but in talking to you I was trying to relate his experience to yours. He is doing well, so I was hoping you would too but I may have said something completely insensitive and not realized it. I certainly didn't intend it that way.

Nobody else will say it, so I will.

Many people are just idiots. And instead of asking you the pointed questions (which if said nicely wouldn't be an issue at all), they either make assumptions or whisper behind your back.

If she had taken the time to simply ask you A) how you're doing and B) what types of treatment regimen you were doing then this would have been an entirely different post.

Which brings me full circle to people just being morons. Sometimes.

I know that your friends see you as honest, brave, strong, amazing person. Glad to hear you define your life as being more than just disease and treatments.

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