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Posted 2017-05-24T05:01:00Z

Please don't ask me how I am.

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.  


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Comments (10)

  • Tiffany Knight
    Tiffany Knight

    Dear Michelle, you don't sound prickly, ungrateful or bitchy. Of course, your friends have the best intentions, but we don't always express these intentions well. This explanation on why the default 'how are you' triggers thoughts of dying for you makes so much sense. And, your alternative suggestions are just great. This is really helpful. So, let me just ask- how IS cooper the cat??? Big hugs, Tiff

    7 years ago · Reply
  • Jennifer Vinton
    Jennifer Vinton

    Hi M! I love you and think of you often. My life has overwhelmed me a lot this year and I'm sorry I haven't been good about being in touch. Wanna Skype sometime?

    7 years ago · Reply
  • Craig Paterson
    Craig Paterson

    Great post. And for those of us who naturally like talking about ourselves all the time, it's not only license but *direction* to bang on about our own shit.

    7 years ago · Reply
  • James Cavins
    James Cavins

    You are very sincere and natural and I applaud you and admire you. Love. Jim

    7 years ago · Reply
  • Jessie Altstatt
    Jessie Altstatt

    Hope to see you at the Mission/ I Madonnari this weekend.

    7 years ago · Reply
  • Michelle Elyse Kendall
    Michelle Elyse Kendall

    Tiff, thank for taking the post in the spirit it was intended! Cooper is awesome, funny and playful but also cuddly. He is a great joy. Jen, yes, lets skype. My in-laws arrive in just a few hours for a full week so how about June 2nd or 3rd? Ill email you too. Craig, you always make me laugh. Bruce, running with your theme, suggests another greeting I could have included in my list...."enough about you, lets talk about me" Jessie, YES! we will come by to see you covered in chalk. Have fun and post a picture of your drawing. thanks everybody.

    7 years ago · Reply
  • Shannon cavness
    Shannon cavness

    Hey lady. I'm glad you take the time to update us. I am so excited every time I get an update from you. Where are you traveling next? Love, Shannon Cavness

    7 years ago · Reply
  • Patty Tunnicliffe
    Patty Tunnicliffe


    7 years ago · Reply
  • Patty Tunnicliffe
    Patty Tunnicliffe

    Big hugs to you Michelle and I am available most Wednesdays, as well as Thursdays or Friday for a visit in your garden (or mine), walk, whatever . . . including just to sit and catch up on your adventures as well . . . Patty T.

    5 years ago · Reply
  • Susan Atwell
    Susan Atwell

    Thank you so much for saying exactly what I'm thinking. I am getting ready to start chemo in 6 days, and I already can't stand being asked "how are you". Some of the answers really want to give to this question are not nice at all. I would rather have people not talk to me at all than ask this question. Again, thank you so much.

    3 years ago · Reply