Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The strange stories people tell you when you have cancer

It's funny how people express concern  about you. Here's an example. I've been going into a Subway shop for lunch for several years. A couple of months ago one of the workers noticed the scar on my neck and wanted to know how I was doing. So I gave him the brief run down of having cancer, things were going well, etc. Today as I was getting lunch another one of the workers asked me how I was doing and I thought "gee, that's nice. These guys are talking about my condition and this woman cares enough to ask." So I give her another high level summary - tumors getting smaller, feeling good, getting better. Here's where the story goes off the rails. She tells me that she has a friend who had cancer. She was cured and I'm thinking "ok, nice story. Like to hear about people getting cured of cancer." But no, we're not done. She then says in this voice that is a combination of intrigue, fear and concern that her friend has recently had a really bad ache behind her eye and has just been diagnosed with a tumor in her head behind her eye. Great. Nice story. Thx for sharing. So What The Fuck? Does she think that I'm going to be all jazzed up about this because I'm a card carrying cancer club member. Remember  - I DO NOT LIKE BEING IN THIS CLUB! I DID NOT ASK TO JOIN! I AM TRYING TO RESIGN FROM THE CLUB! And so on and so forth. It just amazes me when people tell me these stories. What are they thinking? Do they think that somehow this is going to make me feel better or closer to them or that I'm really interested in sharing all the tragedies that cancer brings into their lives? I mean, I'm working really hard at being compassionate to all the cancer folks I run into at the chemo center but I'm not in a big hurry to run out and make a whole bunch of new cancer friends. Maybe this is overly selfish and the universe is trying to teach me another lesson but my feeling is I HAVE ENOUGH OF MY OWN CANCER! Telling me stories about other cancers (especially ones that aren't going so well) is just not a big win for me.

So I just told her that it was hard to have cancer, the treatments are always getting better and I hoped her friend was going to be ok. But inside, I'm thinking - "You are A Dumb Ass. If I knew which one was your car I would like to throw a rock through your windshield. And, I basically hate you for telling me this." Well, maybe that's a bit too strong. But come on, people! Try to think what these macabre, gruesome stories do to people with cancer. So if you've got a great cancer recovery story, I'm all ears. If you've got stories of cancer ending badly, I think I'll pass, thank you very much!


  1. Oops, sorry about the story about my uncle today George. I hope that fell in the, "Wow that stereotactic radiation therapy sounds like a cool weapon in the arsenal" class of story. His is not a recovery story yet, but it will be.

    Don't hesitate to tell me to stfu at anytime!

  2. There is an analog with pregnant women. You do not (if you are a kind person) burden someone who has a bulging belly with horrific stories about your own labor experiences. But rude people often go into gory detail.

  3. Don't worry, ole buddy ole pal. I'll just stick to chant and polyphony. No tragic gory stories here. However, I did notice that you said the tumors were GONE!!! That's tremendous news, indeed. Celebrate the day ...

  4. Like you said, we all have weird ways of connecting with one another. Sometimes TMI is an expression of compassion...or at least an attempt at that. I would agree, though, that the negative-nancy stories don't need to be told or filed for re-tell. Humans are funny...you are doing fine to feel upset and for wanting to get OUT of the cancer club. I look forward to having you join the cancer-survivor club instead!