Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Think Before You Speak to a Cancer Survivor

I never used to be afraid to go to the doctor.  I would hear some people talking in panicked voices that they had to go for a physical and wonder what in the world their doctors did to them that was so scary! Then, two years ago, I got breast cancer.

I have blogged about the details before so I won't repeat, except to say I was lucky.  It was only Stage 0 and is completely gone.  But until you know that, fear enters your life in a way that you can't begin to imagine.  Your death is always something kind of unreal until you think you may be facing it.  The possible suffering is even scarier than dying. I had told my doctor that I thought I would never be the same person again and she told me I was right. Cancer changes you forever.  Some ways are bad and many are good but for sure you are changed.
Every time I go for a mammogram now (and they are more often the first couple years, along with other tests) I am scared. The annual physical? Scared. Now even visits for unrelated things harbor fear. I went last week for pelvic pain.

Because there was no infection (but some blood cells), the doctor set me up to see a urologist to rule out bladder cancer.  Can you say scared sh**less?
Thankfully I don't have bladder cancer.

The stress of worry makes me sick, I know.  I appreciate the people who talk me through my worry and show that they care. I don't appreciate those that try to make my having had cancer something small.  It wasn't.  It was hugely life changing.  All of those cliches like "You were way luckier than a lot of people, be glad" or "You almost didn't have cancer it was so early" only irritate someone who has faced it.

I know I am lucky.  Damn lucky.  Every one of us alive is.  And saying I almost didn't actually have cancer?  You won't say it a second time if you know what's good for you.  Do you think I went through six weeks of radiation for the fun of it? No, I don't dwell on it.  I can go for weeks without thinking of it.  But I will always think of it at some point.  Always. If that bothers you, get over it.  I wish I could. Unfortunately, it was part of my life journey. The things I faced and decisions I made; the horror I felt will always be part of me. It is a very, very small part.  But it is there.

For those of you who have had it you get it. I don't have to tell you what it is like to be looking at possible finality. You have done it. For the those who haven't, please think before you speak. Making little of something so painfully frightening is belittling to both parties. Simply holding me for a minute would have helped a hell of a lot more. Your arms work every bit as well as your mouth.  Sometimes better.

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