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.