I have been wanting to write this blog post for a good long while but I was worried I would sound prickly at best, ungrateful and bitchy at worst. And let me be very clear -- I know people have the best intentions. I appreciate all the love and support! But please, don't ask me how I am. It is not helpful. I can only speak for myself (someone with a less serious diagnosis may enjoy talking about the ins and out of their health issues), but for me it is an unwelcome reminder of dying way too young from this evil malady. The very best day for me is not jetting around the world but simply a day without a single cancer thought. Asking me, “How are you?” with a certain intonation instantly changes the topic to cancer. I know I am still ridiculously reactive to hearing the word CANCER (Damn you, NPR, and your ads for Cancer Treatment Centers of America). I am working hard with my hospice/CC counselors to be less reactive. It is not easy. After recurrence prognosis is very poor. Only 10% of women survive 5 years after their salvage chemo. Take a minute to think about that, and then understand what an unwelcome reminder "How are you?" is. I may feel OK today, but the future is tenuous. I am trying to move forward and live life the best I can, which unfortunately means fighting cancer for the rest of my life. "You look great, everything is OK, right?" or "How are your treatments going?" -- while these are meant to be helpful, they are not. My point: a brief interaction like this probably makes you feel like you're being supportive, but it makes me feel worse! I need to practice saying, "Thanks for asking how I am but talking about it is detrimental to my mental health. Visit my blog for updates."
I know, "How are you" is often a default greeting, so let me suggest some better options: "How nice to see you," or "Can I give you a hug?" Or "I heard you have been traveling lately -- how was your trip?" Or "How is Cooper the cat?" Or "How does your garden grow?" Or "Let's get together for a walk/tea/movie." Or "How can I help you?" Or "Let's plan a fun outing", or "You will never guess what is happening at our house." Anything but, "How is your cancer battle going?" Do I sound bitchy and ungrateful? I actually don't care -- that is what I wanted to tell the world today. I hope I haven't scared you off, and if you see me in Trader Joe's you won't dive into the frozen food case to avoid chatting!
I included a picture of my new curly hair -- I call it my "chemo fro." It is common for chemo to change the color and texture of hair. My hair is also growing in very gray so a few months ago I started dying it. Pictured is my Hospice counselor, Flannery, who I am so grateful for! Thank you, Flannery, for your efforts to keep me sane. Not to forget Nelson and Katie, but I don't have pictures of them.
I will know the results of my latest blood work in a few days; I'll post the news. So you don't have to ask.