Cancer is Crap: A Bad Day

April 9, 2009 2:20 PM

It happens. Well-intentioned people can say the most astonishingly insensitive things; people in possession of big hearts and sound minds can sometimes be devastatingly negative. Short of punching them in the nose, what do you do?

The other day a dear friend said the following to me:

“I was talking to a client who has breast cancer and I told her about you and she told me it’s really not good when you get it when you’re young, the chances of surviving are really not good! And I said, Oh no, why are you telling me this?!?”

More to the point, why was she telling me this??

Good person, bad judgment.

I tried to brush it off, but the truth is I felt robbed of a lot of the optimism that has carried me through this fight.

I just want to walk away from this time of having breast cancer and never look back. Those words made me feel that I can’t do that.

(My mother texted me after I told her this little tale: “I will kill her with my bare hands and pull her tongue out.” That’s mothers for you – they just rock.)

Today when I went in for treatment I asked my oncologist, who very reasonably told me that there are too many variables and factors in each case to make a generalized statement like that; that there are too many different kinds of breast cancer… That yes, of course I am at greater risk of recurrence (having had breast cancer, having had it travel to my lymph nodes) but that I am being treated “curatively.” Ultimately she can do a statistical analysis of my particular case, but, she explained, the results are just statistical, and many people prefer not to be given those stats. Then I asked her whether I could consider having another child if ovarian function returns — she said I need to consider the probability of recurrence when I make that decision.

For the first time in a long time, I was a mess today. The nurses who have treated me for more than a year were surprised to find me in a tearful heap in my giant recliner as they hooked me up to my IV. Luckily they had pecan pie on hand.

There was no bad news today – if anything my oncologist was reassuring. I’m just having a bad day. A bad cancer day. There are good days and bad days, and this one just isn’t a good one. But in general, I have far more good ones than bad. And maybe tomorrow will be a good day again.

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