Talking About The Cancer

No, this will not be the dreaded foot-in-mouth post with the long list of “don’t say this to someone with cancer” things that people say to you when they find out you have cancer. You can relax, big sis. (She was really worried I would write about her, and wanted a warning before being publicly embarrassed. Honestly, big sis, you’re awesome.)

Look, who puts their foot in their mouth more than I do? Nobody, that’s who. And, what DO you say to someone who has cancer? Like, I’m sorry, that’s awful…and then? Like, how do you finish that conversation when you’re done with it? We’ll be praying for you, if you do that sort of thing, which most people in Seattle do not…good luck? I mean, the whole fucking thing is completely awkward.

Which is why I’m going to say this. I give everyone I speak to about my cancer a free pass to react however they’re gonna react and say whatever they’re gonna say. Nothing they can say will make me angry. Mildly bemused, perhaps. But not angry. Because, in the end, is it their fault I have cancer? No, it’s the cancer’ fault. I am angry at the cancer, and I will destroy the cancer with my rage. I can’t be wasting my energy on well-meaning people who say the wrong thing when faced with a completely awkward conversation.

I’m probably selling out my fellow cancer peeps with this attitude, because I have read some humdingers of articles by cancer survivors calling out all the dumb shit people have said that hurt their feelings. And hey, if it helps them direct their anger in a way they find productive, then rock on, the world could always use less awkwardness. I just don’t feel that way. I did about having a preemie and the stupid shit people would say, but I don’t now.

The other thing I keep in mind is that, although I am indeed the one with the cancer, this shit impacts a lot of people. Obviously my family, but also my friends, my coworkers, my neighbors, just so many people, who care about me and want me to get well. All of that love and caring is so incredibly powerful. It makes the feet in mouths seem so trivial in comparison.

You guys know that I am not a religious person at all, but I once heard a rabbi say that he believes that what God is, that ALL that God is, is our connections with each other. That when we feel those connections, that is how we experience God. That idea has stuck with me over the years, and in fact, it’s the only explanation for the supernatural that has ever made any damn sense to me. A god who is all-powerful and decides to smite little children with cancer? What a douche, why would you worship an asshole like that? But our connections with each other, when we aren’t alone? THAT is something I can get behind, and something I have experienced throughout this cancer journey, which I am only just beginning. I am more grateful than I can even begin to express for those connections, because they give me so much strength. They make me cry happy tears instead of scared ones.

So, don’t worry about saying the wrong thing to me. Don’t worry about conversations being awkward. I’m just glad you are here with me.

14 thoughts on “Talking About The Cancer

  1. I believe. I believe that this cancer will be destroyed – by rage and by the love of family and friends (with a little help from science). So encouraged by your courage. xoxo
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  2. We’ve had that conversation a lot–as you know, I’m a strong Christian and I have a loving God who would never select people to give tragedy to. I couldn’t worship him (or her) if that was the case. When Mitchell had his 1st heart attack at 38, my (Baptist) college roommate wondered what he had done to make God mad!!! We Methodists are horrified when we hear that.
    The strangest thing said to me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer was, “Did they tell you how much time you have left?” Several people asked me this and most weren’t even close friends. But most people were wonderful–they just had a hard time with what to say to someone as young as me (and you are 7 years younger). But I’m so sorry you have to go through this. And, I am praying for you, dear friend!

  3. You are wise beyond your years, my dear. You have the best attitude! I think we’re all going to learn from you. Sending you a super huge hug!

  4. I found it awkward telling people I had been diagnosed with cancer because of their array of reactions, including comments about what I did to cause it (really) to laying hands and praying. I realize …now.. they all meant well. I wish I had had your attitude.

  5. Well, *I* personally agree! Altho, I didn’t appreciate people with these “Say Hey to Jesus since you’re about to meet him” comments and gifts. I got a book that was something like, “SO you’re about the meet Your Lord…” Ug. And people who said things like, “Man – once you get cancer it keeps on coming back and back and back!” THAT also was not good.

  6. Challenge Accepted! I will now try to come up with comments to offend you. This will be fun 🙂

  7. Beth, your attitude is amazing! I think of you so very often, sometimes when I am getting frustrated or having a bad day, I think of you and your incredible fight and your amazing attitude about it. For some reason, this popped into my head…when Travis was born and he was so tiny and sick, but yet SO feisty, I remember a nurse saying to me “the feisty ones are the ones that survive!” Now, I realize that you are not a preemie and that the battle you are facing is not comparable…however, you are FEISTY! And I know that your spirit and your drive will get you through this! I believe in God one way or another, although I am still unsure exactly what that means, but I love your analogy, and I have been praying for you. Whether God hears those prayers or you just feel the love from them, I know they can’t hurt! I literally think about you every single day a hundred times a day, I have family and friends asking about how you are doing daily and they don’t even know you. You’ve got a lot of people sending you love and beat-this-cancers-ass vibes! You got this!

  8. I love that description of God. I always tell my kids that I see God in them and all the people that love us. I’m not big on all of the other definitions either.

    I love your attitude. I love that you are putting it out there. I love that you know that no matter what people might say that is stupid (I say a lot of stupid things)–that their hearts are in the right place.

    And it’s from that place that I say: I’m so sorry that you have to face this challenge. I can’t imagine how hard it must be. But you got this. You’re going to kick cancer in the ass and be stronger and braver and more amazing than you ever imagined you could be.
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  9. That’s a great God analogy. I’m not religious either, but I am spiritual … and you know when I feel most spiritual zen and inspiration? When I feel connected with other people–even strangers. When we’re connected in a deep way, transcendentally, raw and emotionally … there’s some serious power in feeling like we’re connected with others.

    So, I’m using every bit of power I have to send all good mojo and feelings toward you–and your family and friends–during this time.

    Will I say something awkward? You can bet your sweet ass I will. Will my heart be in the right place? Again, you and your sweet ass are onto something. So, here’s to well-intentioned awkwardness being a little wind in your sails to kick cancer in the balls.

    Real Life Parenting recently posted…That Time Kenny Loggins Almost Took Me on Tour with HimMy Profile

  10. What a beautiful way to think about God. I think that will probably stick with me forever. Wishing you and your family the best on this journey. I think my reaction is “Wow, that just fucking sucks and I’m really sorry you’re having to deal with this.” And “You got this.”
    Jenn recently posted…Running on Faith – My Messy BeautifulMy Profile

  11. I cried way more happy tears about the overwhelming love that descended upon me during cancer than I cried scared tears about the actual disease. I say if you ever want to know how many people love you, just get cancer. (No, don’t really; I am just kidding.)

  12. You have the best attitude and you inspire me. I’m glad I can say what ever I want so fuck cancer and yes I will be praying for you, daily! xoxoxo

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